It’s been 10 years since the launch of “Small Business Saturday,” the holiday created by American Express during the Great Recession to drive awareness of small brick-and-mortar stores and their communities, especially around the holiday season. The company is celebrating with entrepreneurial stars and an expanded commitment to small businesses for the entire year.
American Express is hosting a two-weekend activation called “The Big Future of Shopping Small,” to showcase the future of retail with technologies like artificial intelligence, artificial reality, biometrics and zero-footprint manufacturing methods. The experience is open to the public at 632 Broadway in Manhattan on Nov. 23, 24, 30 and Dec. 1, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It’s the first time American Express has aligned future tech with its support for small businesses, says Walter Frye, VP of global brand engagement at American Express, who this year made Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 list for his experiential accomplishments.
“It’s all about identifying the trends that will help small business owners future-proof their businesses,” Frye says.
At the extremely blue-tinted experience, little shops, each highlighting a small business, sit on “Main Street” in the year 2030. The “Donut Shop,” created with actual New York-based donut shop Glazed and Confused, decides what donut is right for you by using biometrics to gauge your interest. The “Wine Shop” uses augmented reality to deliver the stories behind wines (like Beringer Bros. and 19 Crimes) on their bottle labels. The “New Stand” allows you to pay with points through your phone. The “Virtual Boutique” uses augmented reality to show 3D products from Parley, 7th Floor Clothing and Soko, hanging in closets. And the “Clothing Shop” sells fashions from up-cycled materials from eco-friendly designer Zero Waste Daniel.
American Express partnered with trend forecaster WGSN and experiential agency Momentum to pull off the activation.
On Thursday, Nov. 21, American Express held a preview for the activation and a party to celebrate. To start things off, Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, global ambassador for American Express, spoke about why he partnered with the brand and how he’s becoming a small business owner himself with the purchase of Manhattan’s century-old Drama Book Shop.
Afterward, the celebrity endorsements continued with supermodel-turned-businesswoman Karlie Kloss, who launched her coding camp for girls, Kode with Klossy, in 2015. Kloss was the official host of the party and acted as an influencer for the event. She visited each exhibit, documenting them on her Instagram Stories and posted a selfie on Instagram to her 8.4 million followers with some of the small business owners and American Express’s blue, 10-tiered cake.