Small Business Saturday 2021: what is shopping event after Black Friday, do we have it in UK, and how it works

Small Business Saturday aims to get people to shop local rather than splash all of their cash with major retailers like Amazon and Argos

With Christmas fast-approaching, the festive shopping season is about to get into full swing.

Starting with Black Friday and Cyber Monday at the end of November and culminating in the Boxing Day and January sales, the next month is going to be key for retailers - especially in a year during which Covid-19 has interrupted normal shopping behaviour.

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But much of the consumer spend during these sales events goes to the major High Street retailers and brands who have economies of scale that allow them to drastically slash prices.

It has led smaller, independent retailers to get behind their own version of Black Friday - Small Business Saturday.

So what exactly happens during this event, is there a UK version - and, if so, when is it?

Here’s what you need to know.

Independent businesses have been placed under significant strain during the Covid-19 pandemic (image: Shutterstock)

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday originally began in the USA in the depths of the last economic recession in 2010.

At the time, many small businesses were disappearing from high streets due to the crash.

It was founded by payment card business American Express, which says it kickstarted the event because it “believes small businesses are at the core of every thriving neighbourhood”.

Rather than focusing on price cuts, the Small Business Saturday movement is targeted at encouraging people to go into their local shops.

In the USA, the event takes place on the Saturday immediately after Thanksgiving, meaning it directly competes with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The UK version of Small Business Saturday has been supported by politicians from all the major parties since its launch in 2013, including former Prime Minister Theresa May (image: Getty Images)

Is there a UK version?

Small Business Saturday first launched in the UK in 2013, with American Express acting as the event’s principal partner.

The UK version calls itself a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which aims to highlight small businesses’ successes and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’.

"Throughout the crisis we have been reminded of the special role that small firms play in local communities,” said director of Small Business Saturday UK, Michelle Ovens, at the launch of the 2021 edition of the event.

“As the UK recovers from the pandemic, small businesses still face considerable challenges to get back on their feet and it’s important we continue to support them.”

An estimated £1.1bn was spent on Small Business Saturday 2020 (image: Shutterstock)

Many small businesses across the country get involved by hosting special events and some shops do offer discounts.

The eponymous organisation that oversees Small Business Saturday promotes the event by listing participating businesses on an interactive map.

It also does a tour of UK towns and promotes 100 independent businesses in the lead-up to the event through its Small Biz 100 on social media.

Small Business Saturday has already visited towns in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England, with stops scheduled in Wales as well as the South West and South East of England over the next two weeks.

Politicians from the UK’s main political parties usually turn out to support Small Business Saturday.

In recent years, everyone from former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, has been pictured sampling the delights of independent shops and businesses.

When will Small Business Saturday take place?

Small Business Saturday typically takes place in the UK on the first weekend of December.

The 2021 edition will be held on Saturday 4 December.

In 2020, the event was estimated to have seen £1.1bn spent at small businesses across the UK, with more than 15 million Brits turning out to support it.

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