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How Small Business Saturday Greased the Wheels of Coffee Commerce

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Small Business Saturday Facebook photo by American Express. Shop Small mural by Stefan Ways.

Grotesque as it may be, the term “shopping holiday” exists in the United States. The big one of course is Black Friday, often characterized by hordes of people elbowing their ways into big box stores for deals on the Friday following Thanksgiving. It is no coincidence the holiday’s name itself suggests calamity.

Then there’s Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, a less public but still very profitable affair in which millions of consumers find online shopping deals, including some pretty great ones in the coffee world from a number of online coffee and equipment sellers.

America’s third shopping holiday is Small Business Saturday. Sure, it was totally fabricated in 2010 by credit card maker American Express — a company with estimated revenue last year of just over $35 billion, hardly qualifying it as one of the little guys — but it is nonetheless an additional opportunity for specialty coffee retailers to connect with new customers.

POS systems provider Shopkeep this year decided to break out data from 482 U.S. coffee shop clients, finding that this year’s Small Business Saturday saw an increase of 12.67 percent in revenue over last year’s event. The company also found that SBS café patrons spent more per visit over 2014, by nearly 5.5 percent.

The Shopkeep numbers fairly closely resemble those compiled by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express in their annual Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, which found that total SBS spending in the U.S. topped $16 billion, reaching gains of 14 percent over last year.

Do these numbers reflect the health of the U.S. economy as a whole? Or a remarkable achievement in marketing from a credit card company (AmEx does create a guide for small retailer to help them drive traffic on SBS)? Or the proliferation of specialty coffee shops in cities big and small throughout the United States? Who knows. Who cares, really, as long as people continue to support their local coffee purveyors.

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