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Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is November 29, 2014. Last year shoppers spent approximately $5.7 billion at independent merchants around the country on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the numbers have been rising steadily since 2010.

American Express, a founding partner of Small Business Saturday, provides participating retailers with a variety of marketing resources and promotional items. This year Etsy is also collaborating with American Express. If your small retail business or local business association wants to get in on the program, there is still time.

Boosting fourth quarter revenue would be great. Continuing  the trend into the first quarter of 2015 would be really great. This gets to the other purpose of Small Business Saturday, which is to build a customer base. That means capturing data. It also means keeping it secure.

Capturing Data

One of the worst mistakes a businessperson can make at a promotional event is to fail to capture information about attendees. But being too intrusive can backfire, and it can have legal ramifications as well.

If you politely ask shoppers who wander into your store to part with an e-mail address so that you can let them know about future promotions, your marketing efforts will probably not run afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act. But you probably won’t get much either.

Games and contests that extract the same information are another option. Be aware that they are heavily regulated by state law, though, and so a little business legal advice would not be misplaced.  At a minimum:

  • limit participation to those over the age of 18,
  • do not risk having the game classified as a lottery by charging a fee to participate and
  • disclose terms, conditions, nature of prize and time frames. There is very little legal risk in over-disclosure.

Swarm Mobile offers technology that allows brick and mortar retailers to collect data from a customer’s smartphone. It is seen as a way to offer special deals and promotions in much the same way that online retailers do, but it raises privacy issues. Disclosure of the terms and conditions of the store’s free Wi-Fi is the key, but it will still leave some consumers uneasy.

Data Security Breaches

The year has been full of these stories, from Target to Heartbleed to Home Depot.  Small retailers may be less at risk for hacking than big-box chains, but the issue will certainly be on customer’s minds. Yesterday would be a good time to review your business’s data security system and the security of external sites your business works with. Your business may also want to consider investing in some data breach insurance.

Don’t forget the low-tech threat to your data, either, such as the disgruntled former employee who walks off with a customer list. Particularly as your business expands, or if it hires temporary employees for the holiday season,  it may be smart to limit employee access to data by job function.

Small Business Saturday is an increasingly big deal for small retailers. With some attention to the task of building a customer base, it could be even more than one very good day.  Capturing and protecting data can be a delicate job, though, and may ultimately take as much planning as getting shoppers through the door in the first place.


Anne Wallace, Esq.

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Anne Wallace is a New York lawyer who writes extensively on legal and business issues. She also teaches law and business writing at the college and professional level. Anne graduated from Fordham Law School and Wellesley College.

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