U.S. small business owners have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Nearly half of small businesses expect to generate more sales during the 2014 holiday season compared to 2013, while a quarter anticipate roughly the same level of performance as last year, according to a small business survey from Capital One. 

The positive holiday outlook comes following a strong six-month period for U.S. small businesses, 43 percent of which reported an increase in sales year-over-year, up from 31 percent in 2013. Capital One's Spark Business Barometer surveyed 400 U.S. small businesses, defined as companies with less that $10 million in annual revenue.  

The survey found that overall business sentiment has also improved since 2013, as 57 percent of respondents referred to current business conditions as "excellent" or "good," up from 47 percent a year ago.

While the continued economic recovery in the U.S. is partly responsible for the optimism on the part of small business owners, a number of other positive factors are also driving this sentiment.

“Gas prices are down, which turns into buying opportunities for many consumers," says Buck Stinson, head of Capital One's Small Business Credit Card. "There is also a bit of a home price appreciation--so a home recovery--and I think that’s contributing to this positive sentiment as well.”

Looking ahead to 2015, nearly 80 percent of small business owners expect to invest more in their business than they did 2014, with "wages and salaries" and "employee training" the top priorities for spending.

“That is a discretionary investment that the business is making, but it’s also a bet on the future,” Stinson says. “If you go back and look at similar survey information around expectations going into the recession, weathering the recession and coming out of the recession, you had much different answers to questions like that.”

In terms of goals for the new year, small business owners cited "cutting costs by streamlining expenses" and "improving advertising and marketing strategy" as their top objectives. 

“There are certainly concerns about healthcare costs, but when they say they’re going to invest more in 2015 than 2014, they’re investing in growth and investing in technology,” Stinson says. “I think they see it as a bet on the future.”

Check out the infographic below for more stats from Capital One's Spark Business Barometer on the top issues and trends impacting small business owners. 

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Published on: Nov 19, 2014