December 11, 2014

Thank You, American Express

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Every year in America the holiday gift buying season traditionally kicks off with Thanksgiving's long weekend. This year the big box stores tried to get a jump on holiday shoppers’ money by opening on Thanksgiving. This move may have been responsible for the reported flat "Black Friday" sales. 

Thanks to American Express's Shop Small movement: AMEX card members are encouraged via incentives, to shop at small businesses that accept AMEX on "Small Business Saturday," occurring on the Saturday following "Black Friday." The 2014 program incentives for card holders with any AMEX purchase over $10 at a registered AMEX small business, the individual card holder will receive a credit of $10 on their credit card statement. Millions of individual card holders have helped small businesses capture sales activity that otherwise might have gone to bigger box retailers. American Express offers small businesses marketing activities for free so they can plan for a successful "Shop Small Saturday" experience. A win-win for both the consumer and small business in your community. 

The Internet makes it convenient to shop and big box stores have great sales. However, let's face it, if we as a community don't support local small businesses they will not be sustainable and we will lose small businesses that make a communities unique. 

What does Shop Small Saturday have to do with writing? I chose to participate in this year's AMEX "Shop Small" by making purchases at our local independent book stores. 

Why? I'm not just a writer, first I'm a reader. As a reader it's fun to spend time in a bookstore perusing through the offerings. Putting your hands on books, comparing cover art and reading the teasers on the back of the books gives you a sense of ownership in the gift you purchase. It also gives the author, in you a chance to do research. What cover art catches your attention? Would you have started the book with that first paragraph? Would you have rewritten the teaser of the latest best-seller?  

Of course, the interaction with bookstore employees can't be found via an Internet review. Sometimes a face to face recommendation is crucial in the search for the "perfect read" to match the right gift to each person on your gift list. Our independent booksellers gift-wrap as a perk which saves the effort and expense of gift wrapping.

Independent booksellers may only represent 3-5% of a publisher's sales but they are the locals, who can champion a publishers' titles and creating book buzz for authors. Word of mouth can be the vehicle to make a small book, huge. Your local independent book sellers, support local authors by publicizing and granting book-signings at their venues and highlighting them in their email newsletters. 

Independent bookstores matter to your community, to readers and you, the author. The only way they will survive and thrive is if we spend some of our gift-giving dollars within the walls of your local independent booksellers. 

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