Shining a spotlight: How Shop Small is helping SMEs get back on their feet

shop small

Chippendale's Old Gold café say local traffic is starting to trickle back in.

Sample Coffee’s third and newest venue, Old Gold café, had been open for six short weeks when the COVID-19 restrictions knocked out most of its growing customer base and forced its doors shut. 

But since reopening in late May, Sample Coffee’s Communications and Impact Manager, Ainhoa Martinez says that local traffic has been steadily trickling back in – and although the future is still uncertain, they are now hopeful for a return to pre-COVID trade.

Optimistic for recovery, but long-term outlook remains less certain 

This year’s Small Business Recovery* research, commissioned by American Express in May, found that 80% of Australian small business owners are optimistic their business will survive the pandemic. However, 52% are fearful for their business’ long-term survival if trade doesn’t pick up quickly enough.   

Such a loss would be a devastating blow to the diversity and colourful character of our communities, according to Martinez, who is a strong advocate for localism. 

old gold cafe

Health concerns were keeping customers from visiting Old Gold for their morning brew.

“It’s so nice that you can walk the streets and visit little shops, it’s quite special, rather than having to drive to a mall, where it’s all big brands and everything’s the same,” she says.

The Shop Small Card Member offer gives eligible American Express Card Members $5 credit back when they spend $10 or more in one transaction online or in-store at participating small businesses – up to 10 times – by 31 August 2020.**

Safety top priority for returning customers

The Small Business Recovery research underscores the importance of health precautions in getting customers back into bricks-and-mortar stores, with over half (52%) of shoppers worried for their safety. 

According to Martinez of Old Gold, in late March and throughout April, these concerns even trumped people’s daily need for barista-brewed coffee. 

“Even though we’d received great reviews from Broadsheet and Timeout, everybody was staying home, so we just had to close, there was no point in being open,” she said.

American Express’ research revealed that only a third of shoppers felt comfortable returning to bricks-and-mortar stores. Over a fifth (22%) would not return until there were zero COVID-19 cases in their state, and another 15 per cent only when there are zero cases nation-wide. 

A vast majority of respondents (80%) said that for them to feel safe, businesses must implement safety measures, such as distance markers and sanitisers. 

Shop Small returns early to boost bounce-back

On the heels of this research, American Express has brought back its annual Shop Small movement early this year with the aim of helping small business owners bounce back from this unprecedented crisis. 

The national campaign is designed to celebrate small businesses and encourage shoppers to support them, and in 2020 it’s bigger than ever, featuring the largest offer in its eight-year history in Australia.

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Old Gold café staff engaging in the #shopsmall social media campaign.

The Shop Small Card Member offer gives eligible American Express Card Members $5 credit back when they spend $10 or more in one transaction online or in-store at participating small businesses by 31 August 2020.**  

American Express will also feature small businesses from around Australia on its social media channels over the next two months. 

After running its own social media campaign called #amexrepostproject to get a reshare on the Amex channels, Old Gold will be one of the businesses featured as part of the Shop Small social campaign.

New small business initiatives for challenging times

This year’s Shop Small movement is also chock-full of initiatives to help accelerate the post-pandemic recovery of small businesses. These include expert Idea Exchange virtual masterclasses, a Small Business Support Hub with resources and offers from a range of brands, and an “Open for Business” map to boost local awareness and foot traffic. 

To address customer safety concerns, American Express is also providing complimentary ‘Back to Business’ merchandise, available for eligible American Express accepting businesses, to help encourage customers to Shop Small and to create a COVID-safe shopping experience. Items will be distributed by American Express and include: hand sanitiser stations, decals to encourage contactless payments, alcohol wipes, social distancing floor markers and Shop Small signage.

Back at Old Gold, Martinez says the business has already benefited from the Shop Small movement. 

“It’s having more options to accept payments from different customers, that obviously broadens the number of customers that you can have, so it’s been great.”

*Research MethodologyThe Small Business Recovery research was commissioned by American Express and undertaken by Morning Consult. The research conducted in May 2020, explored insights from 750 consumers and 500 small business owners via quantitative surveys. This poll was conducted between May 28-June 4, 2020 among a national sample of 500 Small Business Decision Makers and 760 Consumers. The interviews were conducted online among a target sample of adults based on company size (<100 employees, fewer than 25 locations) and job description (decision maker) for Small Business Decision Makers, and based on income level (Household Income of AUD100,000+) for Consumers. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

** Exclusions, terms and conditions at

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