"Mass culture encourages people to run out of their house, now at midnight, and go shopping," says Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility for Green America, which vetted the businesses it's highlighting on its website to ensure they meet certain environmental and ethical standards. "Why not wait another day or more and buy something that helps others?"
Last year, American Express named the Saturday after Thanksgiving "Small Business Saturday" to encourage Americans to shop at mom-and-pop shops. This year, it offered a $25 credit to cardholders who register on social media website Facebook and shop at participating stores.
The company says it launched a multibillion-dollar campaign to promote it the day. The campaign included TV ads and marketing materials for small businesses to display in stores.
The effort has worked. Small retailers that except Amex had a 28 percent increase in revenue during the daylong event last year, compared with a 9 percent rise for all retailers, according to card activity measured by American Express. The company did not disclose the dollar amount spent that day.
It's not clear yet how small businesses fared during the event this past Saturday, but a company survey before "Small Business Saturday" showed that 89 million consumers had planned to "shop small" on the day.
"People get it; they are behind it 100 percent," says Yabette Alfaro, owner of Swankity Swank, a San Francisco home furnishings and accessories shop that participates in "Small Business Saturday." "Our customers don't want to participate in Black Friday. Most of them think anyone making a stand is great."
Lizbeth Turq, a 26-year old in Deerfield, Ill., this past weekend shopped at several local shops during "Small Business Saturday." She ended up buying some gifts for the holidays, including one for her mother at a home dÉcor store. Most of the items she found were 20 percent off, she says.
"It's really not an issue of having a sale or not," Turq says, "It's an issue of supporting the community I live in and creating jobs, particularly in the economy we are in.".
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