Person's hand holding holiday-themed shopping bags.
Smaller retailers may not have the same tech and tools at their disposal as large retailers, but there are ways to model sales strategies to help reap similar benefits. — Getty Images/Halfpoint

Sometimes the smartest thing a small retailer can do is think like the big guys.

Mass merchants like Target, Walmart, Macy’s and Amazon have decades worth of experience preparing and maximizing results for a very important annual sales event, Black Friday.

Small businesses preparing for this year’s Small Business Saturday can borrow the following strategies from the big guys’ playbooks for 2021 to improve their sales game:

The big retailers are thinking bigger than one day

Who says Small Business Saturday has to be just one day? The big retailers have, over the years, stretched Black Friday from a one-day sale to a season-long event, and this year they are starting that earlier than ever.

Target started the holiday season this year on Oct. 10; Amazon began making its Black Friday deals available on Oct. 4; and Walmart has announced that it will make Black Friday a month-long event in November.

Small businesses can follow their lead by promoting “Small Business November,” or theme the entire holiday shopping season, “Small Business Season.”

And consumers don’t appear to mind when big retailers stretch the season: Customer traffic analytics firm Placer.ai reported that Target hit the bullseye with its October deal days this year, boosting traffic by as much as 20% during the promotion.

Walmart and others are selling convenience

This year, the big merchants are ramping up ways to make it easier for their customers to shop.

Walmart is responding to the global supply crisis by leveraging its thousands of stores as shipping hubs. It is extending its from-store delivery hours by two hours, up to 10 p.m. each night, making more items available for delivery, and making more delivery windows available every day.

Macy’s is using a similar strategy and promoting its curbside and pick-up-in-store options, and same-day delivery service via DoorDash.

Small retailers learned to pivot quickly and offered curbside pickup during the first year of the pandemic. For the holiday season, they can promote themselves as the convenient, local alternative to crowded stores and shipping delays by letting customers know what they have in stock and their available pickup options.

Small retailers don’t have the tech tools that Amazon does, but they can create curated gift tables in their stores or create Small Business Saturday gift cards that let the recipient choose any of the items on a gift table.

Amazon is helping shoppers play Santa via giftee-picked presents

Amazon this year is taking its “wish lists” to the next level by letting gift recipients pick their own gifts from a selection picked and pre-paid for by the gift giver. All Amazon needs is the recipient’s email address or text number to make it happen.

Small retailers don’t have the tech tools that Amazon does, but they can create curated gift tables in their stores or create Small Business Saturday gift cards that let the recipient choose any of the items on a gift table.

Macy’s goes ‘live’ to connect with customers

Macy’s, the country’s largest department store chain, this year introduced weekly live shopping events called “Macy’s Live.” Stylists and shopping hosts demonstrate new products and customers can talk to them through chat messages and click on attached product links to purchase featured items online.

Small retailers can do something similar with the live video options on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, even if they can’t offer the click-to-buy option. Videos shared with customers on Facebook and Instagram can create excitement about Small Business Saturday and their stores’ merchandise.

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Published October 29, 2021