More than 95 million people shopped in their local independent businesses throughout the country on Small Business Saturday, marking an 8 percent increase from 2014, according to a survey released Monday.
Shoppers spent about $16.2 billion on the sixth annual Small Business Saturday this year, up 14 percent from $14.3 billion last year, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express. Small Business Saturday was created by American Express in 2010.
"Small Business Saturday is an increasingly important economic engine for independent businesses," said Janey Whiteside, senior vice president and general manager of American Express OPEN, which offers small business services.
Among those who shopped on Small Business Saturday, 31 percent attended a community event on the day, and 81 percent encouraged family and friends to support their local small businesses, the survey found.
"It's very encouraging to see small businesses participate every year and more shoppers giving local entrepreneurs a chance to compete for their business," NFIB president and CEO Dan Danner said in a statement. "Americans are returning to Main Street for the things they need, and ultimately that's a very healthy economic trend."
On Long Island, Small Business Saturday attracted plenty of shoppers, said Jacqueline DiDonato, owner of Pandemonium Boutique in Babylon Village and the president of the local chamber of commerce, even though American Express this year dropped an incentive it had previously offered cardholders. Unlike last year, shoppers who made purchases this year from small businesses on their AmEx cards did not receive credits of $10 to $30. Sales at DiDonato's business rose 8 percent compared with last year, she said.
"It is always my best day of the year," said DiDonato, who has run the women's clothing and accessories store for 10 years and gives out hand-painted shopping bags year-round. "It means a lot to me because it recognizes how the community feels about us."
Familiarity with the day has grown on Long Island, business officials said. "Communities are now aware of Small Business Saturday, and there has been an increase in marketing to support small businesses," said Phil Andrews, president of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, which gave out 200 shopping bags celebrating the day. "There have been a lot of vacancies in the business community, and more people are aware that their support is needed to keep their community vibrant."
More than 200 elected officials and agencies also showed their support for the day through posts on Facebook and Twitter. President Barack Obama shopped at a local bookstore and dined at a local Popsicle shop on Saturday in Washington, D.C.