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Small Business Saturday Hits Its Stride

Stocks in this article: AXP GOOG FDX

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- In six days, thousands of small businesses across the U.S. that take the American Express (AXP) card will promote Small Business Saturday -- an initiative meant to rival big-box retailers vying for consumer dollars on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the holiday season kicks into full gear.

This is the second year American Express is running the promotion meant to encourage consumers to shop -- hopefully by using their American Express cards -- in locally owned, non-chain stores. But this year the initiative has seen significant expansion, a foreshadowing of the potential of this growing movement.

American Express saw a 28% rise in sales volume for Amex-accepting small-business merchants on Small Business Saturday 2010 versus the same day in 2009.

Small Business Saturday was created last year by American Express in response to what the company says is businesses' most pressing need: more customers.

"Year 1 was about claiming the day. Year 2 is about empowering small businesses to own that day," says American Express OPEN spokesman Scott Krugman.

"I think Year 3 you do start to see the snowball effect -- it becomes a part of the holiday tradition nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday," Krugman says.

And it's clear the movement works. American Express saw a 28% rise in sales volume for Amex-accepting small-business merchants on Small Business Saturday 2010 versus the same day in 2009. Although the company does not have sales projections for this year, given the growing support of the movement representatives say it's sure to be significantly more. A poll of consumers has 89 million saying they plan to shop locally on Small Business Saturday.

This year, social media titans Google (GOOG), Facebook and Twitter have shown their support for Small Business Saturday by encouraging businesses to share their stories and business information as promotion.

American Express is giving $100 in free Facebook advertising to the first 10,000 business owners who sign up. For consumers, American Express is offering $25 statement credit to the first 200,000 cardholders who registered their cards to shop at locally owned small businesses on Saturday.

FedEx (FDX) is also encouraging consumers to shop locally. All month long it's been giving away "Shop-Small" American Express gift cards, each worth $25, to consumers through its own Facebook page and offering a special 20% savings to businesses that use FedEx Office Print Online to print Small Business Saturday materials through the event.

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