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Retailers say Small Business Saturday has extra importance this year

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    The busiest shopping days of the year are here, and small businesses in retail are paying extra attention to what happens this weekend.

    According to a survey of small businesses, spending in October slowed to an increase of 4.2 percent year-over-year, the slowest growth month this year, according the report published by Wells Fargo and MasterCard.

    The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy at the end of October and beginning of this month makes Nov. 24 — Small Business Saturday — and the rest of the holiday season even more important for New Jersey's retailers.

    Michael McNamara, global solutions leader for MasterCard SpendingPulse, said for about a year, small retailers were outperforming large stores in sales growth, but now the numbers are on level footing.

    "Nationally, we're seeing significant impacts from Hurricane Sandy, and that is obviously amplified in New Jersey," McNamara said. "This really adds to the importance of the holiday season."

    McNamara said New Jersey small retailers likely will be cautious about hiring and inventory decisions based on slowed growth and the hurricane's aftereffects.

    Doug Case, senior vice president of national small business segment for Wells Fargo, said it's important to remember that a few months of slowed growth do not make a trend, and that small retailers are in better shape and similarly optimistic as they were before last Christmas.

    "Small businesses also have a big role in responding to the disaster," Case said, adding that there could be an unexpected infusion of business as people put their lives back together.

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