There is no denying the significance of Black Friday for merchants and consumers. It is a key date on the calendar for millions in preparing for the Christmas season.

But another date is important as well.

Held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and now in its eighth year, Small Business Saturday rallies communities to support local small businesses. From coast to coast, many will kick off the holiday shopping season by supporting local, independent businesses.

Results from the 2017 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, released by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express, show six in 10 (61 percent) of U.S. consumers are aware of Small Business Saturday, and of those, 82 percent plan to shop at a small, independently owned retailer or dine at a small, independently owned restaurant on the day.

The day is embraced by independent merchants of all kinds -- from traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to service providers to e-commerce businesses. And as consumer shopping habits continue to evolve, they are prioritizing small businesses – even those online. The report found that 59 percent of consumers said they are likely to seek out a small, independently owned retailer when shopping online on Small Business Saturday.

“Small Business Saturday provides people an opportunity to discover and celebrate the variety of small businesses that make their communities thrive,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, executive vice resident of global advertising and brand management at American Express. “Beyond visiting their favorite go-to spots, shoppers say Small Business Saturday inspires them to visit places they have not been to before and would not have otherwise tried.”

Among those who are aware and who plan to shop on Small Business Saturday this year, 65 percent say the main reason they will support local, independently owned retailers and restaurants is because they value the contributions small businesses make to their community.

The 2017 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey found:

• As many as 80 percent of all consumers surveyed say at least some of their holiday shopping will be done at small, independently owned retailers or restaurants.

• Three-quarters (75 percent) of all consumers surveyed are planning on going to one or more small businesses as part of their holiday shopping.

• 90 percent of all consumers surveyed agree it is important for them to support small, independently-owned restaurants and bars.

• Of consumers who are aware of Small Business Saturday, 89 percent agree the day encourages them to shop small businesses all year long, not just during the holiday season.

• For those who are aware and who plan to shop on Small Business Saturday, 44 percent plan to spend more this year compared to last year.

“Supporting small businesses is critical to the health and livelihood of our national economy and local communities,” NFIB CEO and President Juanita Duggan said. “We are proud to partner with American Express to bring attention to the importance of small business and look forward to another successful Small Business Saturday.”

Consider doing your holiday shopping this year by making a point of supporting small, local businesses on Small Business Saturday and beyond. You’ll be in good company. More and more shoppers are doing the same.

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