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Small Business Saturday challenges shoppers to think outside big-box retailers

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(RNN) – A couple of holiday shopping initiatives are designed with the hope of getting people to bring more of their dollars to small businesses this season.

Small Business Saturday will be held Saturday, falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Among the lures for shoppers, American Express offered its cardholders a $10 credit for a $10 purchase. Participating businesses will also be offering deals of their own.

"The day was created in response to small business owners' most pressing need, more customers, and has since grown into an annual celebration of the independent businesses that help boost our local economies," according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the nation's leading small business association.

According to a survey by NFIB and American Express, it is estimated that consumers spent $5.5 billion at small, independently owned businesses on Small Business Saturday last year.

Another campaign of a wider scope and a longer duration, Shift Your Shopping is luring holiday shoppers to small businesses between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. The initiative, in its the third year, represents more than 40,000 local and independent businesses and more than 160 local business organizations in the U.S. and Canada.

Small businesses are defined as firms with fewer than 500 employees. According to the 2010 Small Business Association report, "Using this definition, one-half of the private sector is populated by small businesses and the other half by large businesses."

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance noted in information gleaned from a survey of more than 2,377 independent businesses across 50 states and the District of Columbia that independent businesses experienced an average of 6.8 percent growth in 2012. Businesses involved in "buy local" initiatives reported 8.6 percent growth.

Big-box, internet and small retailers stores could face a challenging holiday shopping season. According to CNN, Morgan Stanley analysts predict that same-store sales will grow only 1.6 percent this quarter. And retailers have six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas to ply their wares.

However, another study of holiday shopping is a bit more optimistic. The National Retail Federation is projecting that $602.1 billion will be spent on holiday shopping this year, a 3.9 percent increase from last year.

The group estimated that 140 million will shop the four-day Thanksgiving weekend.

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