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Labour calls for 'Small Business Saturday' to boost small independent local businesses

Chuka Umunna MP, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, has called for the establishment of a UK 'Small Business Saturday' to celebrate and encourage consumers to shop at small, local independent businesses.

'Small Business Saturday' would be used to encourage people to shop at small independent businesses in their local area.  It would be promoted through local and regional authorities, local trade associations and business bodies, events showcasing small businesses’ contribution to their local economies and through online, national, regional and local media. 

The concept is based on the 'Small Business Saturday' initiative which already exists in the US.  In the US, Small Business Saturday takes place on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving celebrations, one of the busiest shopping days of the year – in 2012 it took place on 24 November. Consumers who were aware of the US Small Business Saturday spent a total of .5 billion (£3.4bn) in independent small shops on Small Business Saturday in 2012.  

The US initiative enjoyed the support of President Obama, who visited a small local independent bookshop with his daughters on Small Business Saturday 2012.  The Obama administration promoted the day through the Small Business Administration (SBA) - Mr Umunna has met with SBA officials to see what the UK can learn from the US to support small businesses.   

Various US celebrities, such as tennis player Serena Williams, Hollywood actress Jessica Alba, NBA basketball star Paul Pierce and NFL champion quarterback Drew Brees supported the US Small Business Saturday campaign in 2012. 

At the end of 2012, Labour launched a national Local Councillors Business Network in the UK to bring together Labour councils to work to support local businesses. Members of the network, including Labour run administrations in Manchester, Birmingham and London, have already indicated they are keen to establish and support a Small Business Saturday in the UK, to champion small businesses and promote shopping on high streets in their areas. 

Mr Umunna has proposed that the inaugural UK Small Business Saturday takes place on Saturday December 7th 2013 – the first Saturday of the December Christmas shopping season.  He has written to American Express, who conceived of the concept in the US, asking if they would agree to extend the initiative to the UK. 

The urgent need to support small local independent businesses is underlined in the latest survey of its members by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) which shows that optimism now is at its lowest point in the last 12 months.  The ACS has pointed to the continuing rise in online shopping, aggressive supermarket marketing campaigns and disappointing wider economic figures as contributing to how small local retailers feel about their prospects in 2013.  One in ten surveyed by the ACS is now considering selling stores in 2013, either to focus on remaining stores in more profitable locations or to leave the convenience sector altogether. 

Chuka Umunna MP, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, said: 

“We must do more to celebrate the contribution local, small independent businesses make to our economy and encourage people to buy from them. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, play a hugely important role in our communities and add to the unique character of each locality.  

“Establishing a Small Business Saturday in the UK, a concept which has enjoyed considerable success in the US, would provide a small but simple and effective way to celebrate local small businesses and encourage more people to buy from them on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  

“A Small Business Saturday in the UK is something all local authorities, whatever their political persuasion, could support and promote. Labour administrations in Manchester, Birmingham and London are already supporting our national campaign to establish a Small Business Saturday in the UK.”

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