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Thanksgiving weekend is notorious for being a time of consumer chaos, when shoppers flock to big box stores and malls around the country. Now a dozen public and private organizations are partnering up to get consumers to focus on small businesses.

Companies ranging from Facebook to

American Express


are hoping to encourage consumers to flock to locally owned businesses by designating the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. That fits tidily between your Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargain hunting.

Companies including Facebook and American Express are encouraging consumers to shop at locally owned businesses next week on "Small Business Saturday."

(Now New Englanders are pushing an idea that emerged a year ago in Oakland, Calif., for "Plaid Friday," in which people wear autumnal plaids and stay away from malls, choosing to appreciate their communities instead. They might do better joining up with Small Business Saturday than taking on Black Friday.)

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the glue that holds communities together, and we've always sought new ways to support them -- something that became even more important when the national economic downturn began," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of the movement, in a press release. "This year, if you have the opportunity to shop on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, make it a point to visit local small businesses. It really can make an enormous difference for merchants trying to succeed."

The supporters of this movement point out that small businesses are responsible for creating nearly


of the jobs in this country -- a claim

mildly debunked

by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research -- meaning we prosper when they prosper.

If that's not enough, American Express has already announced it will give a $25 credit to the first 100,000 cardholders who shop at a locally owned business that Saturday. American Express will also give $100 of free advertising on Facebook to the first 10,000 small businesses who sign up on

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to promote the event.

Now the only question left is what people will come up with to promote on Sunday. Something in a plaid, perhaps?

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