Is small the new big for US shoppers?

Paysafe and American Express take a look at how U.S. consumer shopping trends are reverting back to a preference for small businesses.

This article is brought to you by Paysafe and American Express

Americans love to shop. According to an analysis from Internet Retailer based on U.S. Commerce Department retail sales figures, total retail sales, exclusive of fuel, automobiles, and restaurants, exceeded $3.6 trillion last year, up 4.1% versus 2017.

Americans especially love to shop online. Not a huge surprise, e-commerce retail sales continued their double-digit growth in 2018, jumping 15% from just under $450 billion to over $517 billion. While e-commerce retail still only represents 14.3% of total annual retail sales, what’s more interesting is that e-commerce sales represented over half (just shy of 52%) of all retail sales growth in 2018.

Americans love Amazon.com. Internet Retailer estimates that the cumulative total volume of Amazon transactions (marketplace sellers and Amazon products) exceeded $206.8 billion last year, which equates to 40% of all U.S. online retail.

Small businesses (SBs) are also key for Amazon. According to a company press release, third-party merchandise sales, which is primarily SBs, exceeded $160 billion in sales in 2018, representing some 50% of units sold in Amazon sales. Admittedly outpacing first-party sales on both Amazon and across U.S. retailers.

SBs are also key to the U.S. economy. With over 28 million small businesses in the U.S. and approximately 600,000 new ‘starts’ each year, small businesses represent over 97% of all businesses in the U.S. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 50 percent of people either own or work for a SB and SBs create about two-thirds of all new jobs annually, with retail representing just over 35% of total small business employment. 

Over the past several years, there’s been a real movement to promote shopping at small businesses in the U.S. In 2010, American Express launched its Small Business Saturday® program, which was designed to get people shopping locally on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, during what is one of the biggest shopping periods of the year. 2018 marked the ninth annual Small Business Saturday, bringing in an estimated record $17.8 billion in sales from local businesses in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico1. Over the years, Small Business Saturday spending has now reached a reported estimate of $103 billion since the day began in 20102 — that's $103 billion over 9 days alone.

What started as a day to celebrate small businesses, Small Business Saturday is now a nationwide movement encouraging people to Shop Small® every day. Participating in the Shop Small Movement is a great way for small businesses to reach new customers and to promote their business. And American Express not only promotes the event to create consumer awareness, but they also have a variety of free downloadable marketing materials (such as badges, social posts, blog posts, and digital banners) and free signage for brick and mortar businesses.

Additionally, as an American Express accepting merchant, you could get recommended for free to Card Members who are more likely to spend at your business. In 2018, nearly 17 million people received recommendations on where to shop3. Learn more at americanexpress.com/promoteyourbusiness.

Thanks to programs like Shop Small, small businesses are back and here to stay.


1The statistic cited is an estimate based on projections from a nationally representative sample of adult consumers as reported in the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey commissioned by Amex and NFIB. The Survey gathered self-reported data and does not reflect actual receipts or sales.

2This spend statistic is an aggregate of the average spend as reported by consumers in surveys commissioned by American Express reporting spend habits on Small Business Saturday of consumers who were aware of the day. It does not reflect actual receipts or sales. Each such survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The surveys had an overall margin of error of between +/- 2.0% and +/- 5.47%, at the 95% level of confidence. The data was projected from the samples based on then-current U.S. Census estimates of the U.S. adult population (18+).

3Based on Amex recommendations made throughout 2018. Amex cannot guarantee your business will appear in a search on American Express Maps. Merchants are displayed via the American Express Maps, Americanexpress.com, and email.