NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What's happening in small business today? 1. Small Business Saturday spending exceeds expectations. U.S. consumers spent $5.5 billion shopping "small" this past Saturday, exceeding original estimates, according to research from the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express ( AXP). According to the second installment of the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 67% from 34% just two weeks ago. Of those aware, nearly half (47%) shopped on Small Business Saturday. The increased awareness translated into higher spending for the day. Shoppers spent a total of $5.5 billion on independent merchants, above the pre-holiday estimate of $5.3 billion, according to the research. The survey was conducted among a national representative sample of 800 men and women 18 years and older. Separately, American Express said transactions by card members at small-business merchants rose 21% compared to last year's Small Business Saturday. "In an uncertain economy, America's small businesses have remained a beacon -- creating good jobs and supporting the families they employ and the communities around them," said NFIB CEO Dan Danner. "We are very pleased that so many Americans sought to give back by shopping small this Small Business Saturday. We hope that the support of small firms, retailers, restaurants and other independent businesses continues throughout the holiday season and year-round. Continued support of this vital sector is one important way to ensure our economy fully recovers and a healthy private sector is restored." AmEx says 220,000 small merchants placed permanent point-of-purchase decals on their storefronts recognizing the day, adding to the 500,000 who placed them in 2011. 2. Will Amazon ever go into brick-and-mortar stores? Gleaming from a recent Charlie Rose interview with Amazon ( AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos, Business Insider says the online retailer must be able to do something different instead of being redundant. "We would love to, but only if we can have a truly differentiated idea," Bezos told Rose. "One of the things that we don't do very well at Amazon is a me-too product offering. So when I look at physical retail stores, it's very well-served. The people who operate physical retail stores are very good at it. ... We don't want to do things because we can do them. We want to do something because it's going to -- we don't want to be redundant." 3. Small-business loans teetering on the fiscal cliff. While much of the talk about the fiscal cliff notes the effects of higher taxes, there has been little discussion on stifling small-business lending. According to an opinion piece in The Washington Post , small-business lending has dramatically declined since the 2008 crash, with banks approving only 10% of applications and policymakers "not driving initiatives to shake free the hold on small-business lending." A possible solution, the author explains, could be to increase the SBA-guarantee limits to 90% from 75%, similar to what happened after the 2008 crash. "In the group of finance companies that I own, we have seen more and more businesses apply for financing now for fear that capital will be harder and more expensive to access in the future. Whatever policymakers decide, they must avoid further stifling the small-business community," the article says. -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Follow @LKulikowski To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. >To submit a news tip, email: email@example.com.