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With the holiday season all but here, more small business owners are making Small Business Saturday an integral factor in their holiday sales plans, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).

Some 46% of independent merchants plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday into their holiday strategy, and most of them (67%) say they will offer discounts on November 24, according to the inaugural Small Business Saturday Insights Survey from the NFIB and American Express.

Of those small business owners planning to promote Small Business Saturday, 80% expect a year-over-year boost in sales on that day.

Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serves as the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season for independent retailers and restaurateurs. The day was established three years ago by American Express in response to small business owners' most pressing need: more customers.

Below, additional findings from the survey, along with an infographic on small business.

As many small businesses focus on driving value to customers via discounts on Small Business Saturday, those that intend to take advantage of the holiday are also planning to...

  • Create coupons for future offers or discounts: 46%
  • Offer free gift wrapping: 25%
  • Give away prizes or hosts contests: 23%
  • Give away free items with purchase: 20%

Other survey findings:

  • 81% say Small Business Saturday would be more effective if their communities came together and hosted events.
  • 34% say Small Business Saturday is the most important shopping day during holiday season, compared with 24% who cited Black Friday and 14% who cited Cyber Monday; 37% said they were all equally important.
  • 28% intend to increase the number of employees who will work on Small Business Saturday.
  • 87% will be active in social media channels to promote Small Business Saturday: 96% of those will be using Facebook (33% will use Twitter, 15% will use Google+, and 15% will use Pinterest).

For the third year in a row, American Express is offering a merchant toolkit on that includes downloadable marketing materials. It is also providing small businesses access to free tools and offers (Facebook link) to attract customers beyond Small Business Saturday.

About the survey: The Small Business Saturday Insights survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 500 owners/managers of retail establishments with physical storefronts, kiosks, and restaurants/bars/pubs that are not part of a franchise. The sample was collected using lists of retail establishments. To qualify, all establishments had to have fewer than 100 employees. The average number of employees of all establishments in the survey was 5.7 (with the vast majority falling in the 0-5 range). The study was conducted anonymously via telephone by Redshift Research between September 25 and October 12, 2012.

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