Multi-billion dollar boost is a shining light for small business recovery

Lisa Belcher (Center), the Vice President of Small Merchants for American Express

American Express’ latest Shop Small campaign urges shoppers to do their shopping with small businesses this year to help accelerate their recovery. If each person purchased a $100 gift at a small business, it would deliver an additional $2 billion boost to the sector.

This rally for support comes as Gill Minervini, the newly appointed festival director of Sydney’s most iconic light extravaganza, Vivid, creates spectacular festive window displays in three small businesses, bringing joy to local communities and much-needed foot traffic into stores.

To support the campaign, new research by American Express shows the potential opportunity to help reinvigorate the small business sector is even greater.

The data shows that shoppers are intending to dig deep this Christmas to potentially spend, on average, $220 per gift for loved ones. If this happened, and just one of these gifts was purchased at small businesses, a potential $4.4 billion would make its way to the sector.

Make or break for small businesses

In a sign of how critical this trading period is for small businesses, the research shows it will be make-or-break for nearly one-third (30%) of Australian small businesses.

These operators say that without strong sales they won’t survive. Another 38% say that weak sales will force their hand at having to make serious changes to their business.

“Having parents who owned a small business and seeing how hard they worked for its success, I’m proud to be part of a campaign that encourages support for the sector at a critical time as not many people have had it tougher than small business owners lately.”

“In working with each business, I’ve brought to life their story in a way that reflects the spirit of the season and showcases a great range of Christmas gifts available in-store.”

“Small businesses said it was down to the support of their local community that has kept them operating and they hope that the window displays will act as a small ‘thank you’ to bring joy to those who see them and bring more shoppers to the local area,” Gill Minervini said.

Light at the end of the dark tunnel

Lisa Belcher, the Vice President of Small Merchants for American Express is optimistic.

“Almost one-third (31%) of Australian owned and operated small businesses say that this year’s Covid crisis has been the hardest period their business has ever endured.”

“Compared to last year, average sales are down 35% and operators are pulling out all the stops to make this Christmas successful. We launched Shop Small in Australia in 2013 and this annual call for support for small businesses has never been more important.”

“We are inspired by the window displays traditionally seen in larger retailers globally.”

“We are delivering the same level of delight and magic to local communities but most importantly bringing customers, ready to spend, through the doors of small businesses.”

Because of the pandemic, 23% of Australians have shopped more with small businesses.

Of these, 69% say they want their money to contribute to small businesses’ survival, 35% say they feel good to support small businesses and 35% enjoy the personal experience.

Small businesses should offer customers more incentives

The research also indicates that those small businesses that focus on providing a great Christmas range for shoppers (50%), those that embrace the festive spirit (23%) and offer complimentary gift wrapping (20%), have a good chance of encouraging store visits.

Chris Balken, who co-owns the Collector Store in Sydney’s Paddington, is one of the small businesses involved in the campaign. He is relying on this festive season to recoup revenue losses from recent lockdowns and set his business up well for the new year.

“My wife and I, and our small team, work all year for the festive period. We rely on this time of year to bring in the additional revenue we need to close the year on a positive note.”

“It’s also about ending the year supporting the beautiful families and locals who shop with us in-store by helping them find that perfect gift as our way to give back to our community.”

“We are thrilled to be working with American Express as part of the Shop Small campaign, being able to light up our high-street and community will bring such joy to our locals.”

Much needed boost after the pandemic on retail trade

The Australian Retailers Association is lending its support to the Shop Small campaign. The Chief Executive Officer, Paul Zahra, gave additional insights.

“We estimate the daily impact on retail trade during the lockdowns was over $55m daily in Victoria and $40m in NSW, thus a lot of pain and devastation was felt across our cities.”

“Businesses are ramping up their operations in a time when many discretionary stores in fashion, footwear and accessories make up two-thirds of their annual profit.”

“The outlook is positive as Australian consumers are forecast to spend around $58bn which is in line with last year, and up 11.3% on pre-pandemic conditions in 2019.”

“The ARA is delighted to support American Express’ latest Shop Small campaign with the hope that small businesses receive their fair share of spend as the stakes are high.”

To incentivize its Card Members, American Express has a special Shop Small offer.

Members who first save this offer to their Card will get 3 extra points per dollar spent with participating small businesses until 31 March 2022, in-store or online.

American Express will showcase the story of the festive windows in videos highlighting the businesses featured in the campaign. Shop Small is one of several initiatives from American Express designed to give small businesses access to big business advantages.

Between 2013 and 2020, American Express Card Members have contributed more than $6 billion to the Australian small business sector through Shop Small.