"Year one was about establishing the day -- putting it on the map. Year two was about creating greater awareness of the day and making it a part of the holiday shopping weekend. Year three is about getting small businesses to own the day and make it their own," Fitzmaurice Reilly says.

The company hasn't released its projections on how many consumers it expects to shop small this year. According to the inaugural Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, 46% of independent merchants plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday into their holiday season marketing plans.

The survey polled 500 owners/managers of retail establishments with physical storefronts, kiosks, and restaurants, bars and pubs that are not part of a franchise and had fewer than 100 employees (the vast majority having fewer than five employees).

Eighty percent of those who plan to incorporate the campaign into marketing materials expect a year-over-year sales boost on that day, the survey found.

Independent We Stand, a nationwide movement encouraging consumers to shop local, is partnering with American Express for the second year to promote Small Business Saturday.

"I think it's fantastic," says Independent We Stand's project manager Bill Brunelle. "We are encouraging every one of our 88,000 small-business members to participate. It's a huge media event and it does an excellent job at reminding consumers about the importance of supporting local, small businesses."

However, the goal of the initiative is to make local businesses part of Americans' shopping plans every day of the year. Forty-six percent of respondents plan to create coupons or discounts on a future purchase that day.

A majority of survey respondents say the initiative could be even bigger if more communities came together and hosted events around their small businesses.

"My hope for Small Business Saturday is that ... it becomes a sustainable day like Black Friday without promotion," AmEx's Fitzmaurice Reilly says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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