Despite sales hours that reached into the heart of Thanksgiving, shopping at the major retail chains during Black Friday was nearly 3 percent lower than in 2012 -- the first year-to-year drop since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009.
But apparently the reverse was true the following day, when mom-and-pop shops and neighborhood boutiques reported a 3.6 percent increase in sales on what has been dubbed Small Business Saturday.
A survey by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) suggests that consumers who knew about Small Business Saturday spent $5.7 billion at independent businesses that day compared to $5.5 billion in 2012.
"We hope that support of small firms, retailers, restaurants and other independent businesses continues throughout the holiday season and all year round," said Dan Danner, who heads the NFIB.
In comparison, consumers spent $57.4 billion during Black Friday, down from $59.1 billion in 2012, according to the National Retail Foundation. Although stores reported a jump in traffic on Thanksgiving Day -- as most of the biggest chains moved their opening times to between 5 and 8 p.m. -- that came with a drop in visits on Friday.
Small businesses benefited from the "Shop Small" promotional campaign launched by American Express, which created Small Business Saturday four years ago.
According to the NFIB survey, nearly 71 percent of shoppers are now aware of Small Business Saturday, compared to 67 percent last year. And 46 percent of those who were aware of the day reported shopping at the businesses.
This year, nearly 300 cities issued Small Business Saturday proclamations, including San Diego. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria launched the local activity at Shop Pigment, an interior decorating store on 30th Street.
“Take a day off from the hysteria of malls and fighting for parking spaces, and walk or bike to shops in your neighborhood,” Gloria urged shoppers.
Miro Copic, professor of marketing at San Diego State University, said the shopping day has been a huge boon for American Express, which has used the day for building more small-business customers, as well as the retailers who benefit from its promotional work.
Michael Belch, a former consultant to Fortune 500 companies who teaches integrated marketing communications at San Diego State University, said that small stores in general "are starting to do better because of the customer service, convenience, lack of crowds and different product offerings."