Just One Thing About Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday 2013My home town of Farnborough does not have the best of town centres; it has an ugly mix of modern buildings dating back to the 1960s and spanning every decade since then with suitably obnoxious architecture from each period all groaning for attention.

The local council’s CEO stated in early 2012 that he did not want to see this borough and its two towns of Aldershot and Farnborough become “clone towns” and yet we’ve seen new stores pop up from big businesses that you tend to see everywhere else in England. Focusing on Farnborough alone we have a new “Hungry Horse” and Wetherspoons’ pubs and two Starbucks coffee outlets appear with one of our historic pubs being condemned to a fate as a second McDonald’s in the town, this one having the distinction of being a “drive-thru”.

Despite my staunch attitude to supporting small independent local businesses as much as I can, I have found that the shopping experience in Farnborough town centre is starting to be very boring and as such I’ve defected to Farnham recently, a historic market town just 7 miles away in Surrey. The streets of Farnham are a little more claustrophobic and it’s not totally pedestrian friendly but it does make a nice change to shop somewhere different.

On Saturday 7th December I decided to visit Farnham and it just happened to be Small Business Saturday. Farnborough was running a few weekends of free parking but they did not include the Saturday. Farnham however, had all its parking meters covered up so that we couldn’t use them and so everybody parked for free.

As I went around the town centre, doing my pre-Christmas shopping, I noticed just one shop on my list of stops was explicitly participating in Small Business Saturday. Outside 101 Collectors Records was a blue SBS mat gaffer-taped to the pavement with blue stickers all over the windows promoting the day. I stepped inside, quite late at 5pm, and had a browse.

Picking out a couple of cheap CDs for my personal collection I asked the proprietor how Small Business Saturday was going. He said it was “just like any other Saturday, no change in footfall really”. He went on to say that he did in fact have to start accepting American Express cards as part of the deal and the transaction fees were such that, despite the same amount of custom, he said he was actually losing money.

So, by participating we had one local independent retailer actually lose money from Small Business Saturday.

What are you experiences of the Small Business Saturday, did you improve your footfall or increase your sales? Did any small business in Farnborough participate? How did it go?


By is4profit editor Paul Mackenzie Ross

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