You don’t need to be a historian to understand the contribution small-scale employers have made to this country. From general stores to milk bars, tax accountants to flower shops, they’ve hired, helped, supported, sponsored, sold and told it like it is to generations of Australians. Back for its fourth year in Australia, the Shop Small movement is about bringing together business communities; government and most importantly, consumers; and encouraging them to support small businesses, by giving small business owners what they need most – more business.
As the 2016 Shop Small, Economy of Shopping Small: Custom Counts Report illustrates so powerfully, every day we owe them a debt of gratitude. Every day we need to find ways to show them that we care. Small business owners don’t just form the backbone of the Australian economy, they have helped shape its soul. Entrepreneurship, making a life on our own terms, building a livelihood for our loved ones. Having a go and keeping going when it gets tough.
Small businesses are succeeding and growing
While national data and owner feedback tells us that the small business sector is growing, the majority of Australians believe more small businesses are shutting rather than starting. In fact four in five people believe small businesses are not lasting as long as ten years ago, and seven out of ten think there are fewer small businesses.
By raising awareness of the small business sector and running events like Shop Small, we hope to change perceptions of the decline and to further motivate people to spend their dollars locally in a small business. For many people their first job is in a small shop and our research has told us that people are concerned about the impact on local employment opportunities when small businesses close. With the loss of small business we see that people do fear the decline of their community, a loss in the integrity of their neighbourhoods, and the need to travel further to shop, which has a particularly damaging impact on vulnerable sectors of the community.
Despite these views, our research reveals that the majority of small businesses are succeeding, and Australians are turning to small business to further career ambitions. The report found 85 per cent of the sector’s organisations are in a better or similar financial position as they were last year. Given the role small businesses have played in so many of our lives to date, it is perhaps not surprising they feature prominently in many of our personal plans for the future.
How can you support your small businesses?
Firstly, it’s simple. Shop Small. But more than that take the time to get to know your local newsagent, your local cafe owner, your local takeaway. And take the time to let them know what their business means to you.
At American Express we’re backing small business by giving our Card Members, who spend $20 or more at participating small businesses, a $10 credit. That’s ten opportunities alone for you all in November to shop local and say thanks. You can visit the Shop Small website to find your local participating business.
For businesses owners how you can attract, engage and retain customers this November and beyond?
1. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd
Remember individuality in this cluttered world is what divides you from the competition. Be clear on your value proposition to the market. What promise of service or product excellence are you offering that no one else is? Once you are clear on this, don’t be afraid to take a few risks in your marketing so you can attract new customers with this promise.
2. Meet your customers on their terms
There is no such thing as mass advertising anymore. Regardless of the size of your business, you must engage with each customer individually whether that’s online, offline or a mixture of both. People only ever remember how you made them feel so make each customer feel like their number one.
3. Always be on the move
What’s in today is out tomorrow. Keep one eye on market trends and the other on your business’s economic health. The beauty of small business is it can afford to be nimble so never stop striving to keep your business relevant to your customers’ needs and behaviours whilst not overstretching yourself. By doing this, your customers will always be your customers.
Remember, if we all Shop Small, we can make this November a huge month for small business.
Katrina Konstas is Vice President of Small Merchant at American Express.