Etsy sellers join Small Business Saturday hoping for a Black Friday-like boost

Small businesses prep for their version of Black Friday

Matthew Demeo has been prepping for the holiday season since October. The Etsy seller, who crafts handmade leather goods in his shop in New Rochelle, New York, knows the months leading up to the New Year are crucial — his sales can increase by more than 100 percent, holding him over during slower months.

He's hoping to sell a bit more this year as well, participating in his first-ever Small Business Saturday at the Etsy Holiday Pop-Up Marketplace in Brooklyn, New York.

"It's exciting to be around other small retailers and small makers. It's people who think like me, act like me and work like me," the 28-year-old owner of Mateo Mattia said. "We are all kind of in this same court together."

Matthew Demeo sells his handmade leather goods on Etsy and is participating in Small Business Saturday for the first time this year.
Kate Rogers | CNBC

That court of small sellers has grown significantly in the past few years, as the American Express-sponsored holiday is now in its eighth year, with 7,000 communities across the U.S. gearing up to participate this Saturday, up from 6,700 last year.

This is the first time Etsy and American Express have collaborated for the day, with five pop-up marketplace locations in New York; San Francisco; Los Angeles; San Antonio, Texas, and Wichita, Kansas.

Last year, some 112 million consumers reported shopping at independently owned businesses on Small Business Saturday, up from 95 million the year prior. Data from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business found shoppers spent more than $15 billion last year on the shopping holiday.

"A small merchant can give that personal service, personal touch or recommendation," said Elizabeth Rutledge, EVP of global advertising and brand management at American Express. "The fact that they see you and you come back on a daily basis — that is really important to consumers."

That customer experience is what Sara Stroman believes sets her apart from big-box competitors during the holiday shopping season. Stroman, 36, hand-makes cards and stationery in her apartment in Englewood, New Jersey, as a side business called S2 Stationery & Design, and has been selling on Etsy since 2009. During the holidays, she says, her sales can increase by 50 percent.

"It's completely different to buy something from someone who's actually made it, and I think that's important," Stroman said. "People are looking for a connection."

Data shows Stroman's take may be true: Amex reports that 61 percent of consumers say they are aware of Small Business Saturday and that 82 percent plan to either shop or dine small on that day.

"That personalized service is I think what small merchants can do," Amex's Rutledge said. "That's what makes it special."

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