Britain is rightly proud of its reputation as a nation of shopkeepers. The British value local shops and small businesses for much more than the products they sell. They understand their role as vital hubs which bring communities together.
I ran my own sportswear business before entering Parliament, and as an online retailer I relied on my local Post Office and visited it and the small shop it was attached to almost every day. I'd see the same faces in the Post Office week to week and came to understand how for many the Post Office and shop weren't just places to buy things, but a trusted friend and social hub. When these places vanish they rarely come back and a little bit of the history and social fabric of an area disappears.
Independent shops and small businesses also have a vital role to play in our economic recovery. Research by the Federation of Small Businesses reveals that 88% of people moving from unemployment into private sector jobs either start up or work for a small business.
This is what makes Britain the perfect venue for a Small Business Saturday.
The USA's Small Business Saturday was launched by American Express and is hosted every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. American consumers are encouraged to visit their local small and independent retailers to either pick up something for themselves or find gifts for the holiday period.
At 2012's Small Business Saturday US consumers spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent retailers, providing an invaluable boost to this vital sector. The campaign got over 3.2 million 'likes' on Facebook and over 200,000 Tweets were also sent in support.
I know that the great British public would be just as keen to support their local independent shops if a similar initiative was promoted here. In the run up to Christmas people want to find that new product or unique gift for their loved ones. Flagging up the idea in people's minds and providing publicity on where the best independent shops are located, will help people to do just that and provide a huge boost to small businesses.
This why I am delighted that Chuka Umunna, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, is writing to American Express and offering to work with them to launch a Small Business Saturday on this side of the Atlantic. Labour Councils in London, Manchester and Birmingham are already on board and I know that many more are keen to get involved in a campaign to promote their independent shops.
I'm sure that American Express will see that Britain is the perfect location for another Small Business Saturday and will work with us to launch it in time for Christmas 2013.
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