Small Business Saturday set for British launch

Labour's business spokesman backs day to promote independent retailers

Shadow Business Secretary Chukka Umunna is launching a British version of a Serena Williams-backed US initiative which boosted spending on independent retailers by $5.5bn (£3.6bn) over Christmas last year.

For the past three years, Small Business Saturday, which is held just after Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November and is backed by President Barack Obama, has one of the busiest shopping days of the year over the Pond. The British version, which Mr Umunna has been trying to set up for months, will be held on 7 December.

Seven business organisations, including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, representing 370,000 firms have signed up to the UK initiative.

As Williams, who is the world's top women's tennis player, Sin City actress Jessica Alba, basketball star Paul Pierce and NFL quarterback Drew Brees supported the US's campaign in 2012.

The UK version will be launched against the backdrop of a traumatic time for many retailers in town centres, where an average of one in seven shops is empty after a series of failures over the past five years.

Mr Umunna said: "I want to make Small Business Saturday a reality in Britain to actively champion, celebrate and showcase small, independent businesses on one of the busiest shopping days of the year."

He added: "Small Business Saturday has been a great success in the US and has grown into a movement, boosting spending in small businesses by $5.5bn last year."

The MP and the business organisations are working on the launch with the credit card giant American Express, which owns the copyright to Small Business Saturday and has promoted the US scheme since its inception in 2010.

A spokesperson for the credit card giant said: "American Express has a strong tradition of working with small businesses and we are currently considering how we can support a UK Small Business Saturday initiative later this year."

The coalition has launched a series of retail initiatives, notably the Mary Portas review of the high street, which led to 27 pilot towns receiving taxpayer funding. It has also shared £10m among 100 local authorities, as part of its High Street Innovation Fund. But both initiatives have been dogged by slow progress and have faced accusations of wasting money on seemingly frivolous items, such as spending more than £1,600 to hire a Peppa Pig costume for the day.

The other five organisations backing Mr Umunna's plans are the Association of Convenience Stores, Forum of Private Business, British Independent Retailers Association, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents.

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