TRADERS have welcomed calls to use a US initiative to encourage people to visit small shops brought to the UK.

Small Business Saturday, devised and sponsored by American Express, has taken place on the first weekend after Thanksgiving since 2010.

US figures show that consumers aware of the promotion, which is heavily plugged in social media and endorsed by a number of celebrities as well as President Barack Obama, spent £3.4billion in small shops on the day in 2012.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has now written to American Express to ask if they could bring the initiative to UK high streets as well.

The move has been praised by traders in Westbourne, who said small businesses need all the help they can get if they are to survive.

Christine Higgins, owner of La De Da, which has been open in the arcade for five weeks, said: “It’s difficult for small shops, with all the big department stores.

“The only thing the small shops can do really is try and offer something different. It’s no use trying to do something the same.

“All small businesses need help.”

Tracie Beardsley, owner of Fab Frocks, added: “I’ve certainly found since I’ve been part of the Coastal BID and other schemes where there have been incentives and things going on in Westbourne that’s really helped.

“So I would be all for anything like that. I think it’s a two-way thing – small businesses work very hard and there’s a lot of support for small businesses. But people say they support small businesses and that’s sometimes just lip service.

“We are quite a specialist shop and we find people will travel to us from London and from Ireland.”

Melanie Mogford, owner of Beach and Body, said independent businesses in particular needed extra help.

She said: “If it’s promoted well, if the nationals get behind it, I think it’s a really good idea.

“If it’s only dealt out in small pockets around the country it’s not going to have a lot of impact. In America they have it once a year, but if it was something like four times a year, once a season then it says in people’s minds.”

Ian Cracknell, owner of Workout of Westbourne, added that anything which got people through the doors would help.

He added: “It’s convenient for people to go to a department store, but there are different things to be had. I try and stock different brands to the mainstream. I have women-only brands that you don’t tend to find everywhere.

“It needs more publicity because the independents haven’t got the money to advertise.”