Shoppers urged to back small firms
Consumers have been urged to "shop small" today to support the UK's second Small Business Saturday.
The event aims to boost smaller enterprises and change behaviour so people use them throughout the year.
It is widely backed by hundreds of trade organisations, including Chambers of Commerce and market trader groups, along with big companies such as American Express and O2, NatWest, RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and Scottish Power.
Some 62 local councils are helping by waiving parking charges for the day.
Last year, independent businesses took £468 million across the UK on the day; more than 1.5 million people viewed posts on Facebook and #SmallBizSatUK trended on Twitter all day.
Business and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock said: "There's never been a better time to start a business and I am proud that the Government has thrown its weight behind small business.
"This Saturday we have a first-rate opportunity to celebrate the hard working heroes of our economy and I will be shopping small throughout the day whilst visiting my family in Nottingham.
"Let's make this year's Small Business Saturday even better than the last."
To encourage the nation to get involved again this year, supporters of the initiative have been rallying the British public.
Artist Sir Peter Blake, who created the sleeve design for the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, created a piece of celebratory art featuring more than 60 shopkeepers from across the UK with the tools of their trade.
Award winning film maker Heidi Greensmith turned her camera on three independent shops to give small businesses a share of the limelight with short film Saturday and model Daisy Lowe will lend her support at an independent shop today.
Lowe said: "I'm passionate about small, independent shops and have picked up some of my most treasured outfits from one-of-a-kind boutiques. I'm normally asked to model for big brands, but I jumped at the chance to be involved in Small Business Saturday and show my support for small, independent businesses too.
"I hope people around the country get involved and join me in shopping small on 6 December."
Meanwhile, new research found that nearly half (47%) of people are set to support today's event, spending an average of £24.39 at small local non-chain and independent enterprises across the UK.
This could equate to a massive £543 million entering the tills of small enterprises.
The study by Direct Line for Business showed that people in the East Midlands (54%) and Wales (53%) are most likely to support the event, while the likeliest biggest spenders are those in London (£30.44) and the South West (£29.55).
Respondents suggested they would be most inclined to buy grocery products (43%), cards/gifts (24%) and specialist food/drink products (14%) from an independent shop today.
The research was conducted online by Consumer Intelligence among a representative sample of 1,987 UK adults between November 7 and 10.