Optimism High, Hiring Low for SMBs This Holiday Season

As more small-business owners adopt payment technologies to alleviate cash flow issues, Visa and MasterCard were ranked as the top payment brands.

SMBs and holiday shopping

As this year’s holiday shopping season approaches, a Manta small-business study reveals that 67 percent of 1,268 respondents are already experiencing steady or improved sales.

Optimism is high, with 71 percent of small businesses feeling positive about upcoming holiday sales, and small business owners in the South are the most optimistic in the nation when it comes to holiday sales this year (75 percent).

However, the increase in sales and optimism hasn’t impacted holiday hiring, as 82 percent of those surveyed will not be hiring seasonal employees this year, which is consistent with last year’s findings.

"Our data shows that social media is the No. 1 technology investment that small business owners plan to make in the coming months," John Swanciger, CEO of Manta, told eWEEK. "Small businesses understand the importance of building an online presence beyond the traditional Website. They have seen the benefits that a loyal customer base has on the success of their business and discovered that social media is a low-cost way to communicate and interact with their supporters."

As more small business owners adopt payment technologies to alleviate cash flow issues, survey respondents ranked Visa and MasterCard as the top payment brands most supportive of small business (29 percent).

PayPal (23 percent) and Square (16 percent) ranked second and third, respectively, with American Express ranking fourth (5 percent).

"Small businesses are optimistic and expect increased sales this season. That suggests the overall small business economy in the U.S. is doing well and poised for revenue growth this year," Swanciger said. "The lack of seasonal hiring, even though sales are expected to rise, is really more about small businesses being cautious and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We will see if small businesses change their mind about hiring seasonal workers once the holiday sales start coming in later this year."

The report noted PayPal and Square’s prominent rankings could indicate a shift toward mobile payment brands is underway in the small business community, as together they represent 39 percent, indicating one or both brands could displace Visa and MasterCard in the coming years.

Meanwhile, the report indicated big brands, such as Google, Amazon and Apple all have a long way to go to win the loyalty of small business owners.

While Apple may be a consumer darling, only 1 percent of respondents feel Apple is supportive of small businesses, although this is something that could change with its new Apple Pay offering.

From increasing sales leads to networking and generating exposure for their business, social media is a must-have tool for businesses of all sizes, Swanciger added.

"This year’s survey results around small business optimism are consistent with previous Manta surveys," he said. "Optimism is engrained in the small business community, something that helps in both good times and bad. Small businesses trend towards having a consistent can-do attitude and we don’t expect this to change anytime soon."