Christmas Shopping Consideration #2

A series of posts considering the options for Christmas shopping (online, retail, local, eccentric) and the impacts of our decisions (financially, socially, preservation-esque). This is post 2 of 4. See considerations #1, #3, #4.

Consideration 2:  Can you Shop Locally?

I know, I know, I ramble on about shopping in your local downtown and avoiding big box retailers.  You might roll your eyes and call me a crazy idealist.  Okay, fine. But, I am acknowledging that there are instances when people cannot shop local businesses.  For example, some people live in the middle of nowhere (as in, hours to stores) or people live in suburbia (as in, chain stores have taken over everything), or the local downtown caters to the wealthy, the tourists, or those who like tchachkas or really expensive clothes and décor that normal people cannot afford.  And in all honestly, those chain stores sometimes (not always!) beat the local prices.

If one of these fits your situation, then you probably are calling me crazy. Anyway… Now what do you do?

How to Shop Locally.

Consider turning to the world of online shopping (also a separate consideration).   Sites like Etsy, DaWanda, and GLCMall are online stores set up and “owned” by individuals who have a specific craft and sell their work. Craft? By crafts, I do not mean only potpourri pillows and candles and knitted scarves (though some people like such things).  On these sites you can buy artwork, jewelry, clothing, furniture, leather goods, picture frames, kids’ toys, stationery, Christmas ornaments…the list never ends. Etsy even has a search by location function.  Dawanda is based in Germany. DaWanda and GLCMall seem to rely more on crafts than Etsy, but all sites have interesting products.

Take a look and you will see that handmade doesn’t mean grandma style crafty or elementary school art class.  I only know one person who owns a shop on Etsy. Check out Jennifer’s shop for picture frames, mirrors, and furniture.

Why consider such sites? Well, consider this: You may not be able to shop locally, but if you are supporting self employed businessmen and women (the artisans, if you will), then you are at least part of the local economy and not just corporate America. With the search by location feature, you can choose which region to support. What a wonderful idea.

You could also consider shopping ahead of time, when you’re traveling or visiting friends and family. And of course, some good “googling” can usually help you find what you want. 

What about those voids that can’t be filled locally?

No, some items are not sold in locally owned stores because that is no longer how the economy works.  I always think of electronics for this example or mundane necessities like random household cleaning items. We do have our limits. But, that does not mean that presents (aside from electronics) cannot be found. The point is to try. After all, if everyone could just put in some effort then, combined, we can all make a difference and help the local businesses.

Happy shopping! 


Next in the series: online shopping…

Christmas Shopping Consideration #1

A series of posts considering the options for Christmas shopping (online, retail, local, eccentric) and the impacts of our decisions (financially, socially, preservation-esque). This is post 1 of  4. See considerations  #2, #3, #4.

Consideration 1: Avoid big box retailers.

Christmas decorations popped up in stores long before Halloween, some radio stations are already playing Christmas music, and stores already have holiday sales.  I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas…AFTER Thanksgiving. Before then, I consider it my personal horror movie. I love the fall and winter season. They should each have their own season rather than Labor Day, sort of fall, Christmas.  If you haven’t been, you are about to find your mailbox and Sunday paper  bombarded with flyers and catalogs every week, often from the biggest chain stores like Wal-Mart and Kmart and Target.

When you choose to begin your Christmas shopping is on your terms. But, when Christmas season arrives, do you consider where you are shopping? Are you more likely to cave and shop at chain superstores? Or do you look for more unique gifts from boutiques, local and regional stores, festivals, etc.? 

The economy is suffering and holiday shopping is likely to reflect recent economic trends. Consumers will probably shop less, but still shop at the discount retailers like the giants of Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target.  Local stores and even smaller chain businesses are going to have a hard time keeping pace, I would imagine.

What does this have to do with historic preservation?

While the subject of giant retail stores has many tangents, let’s stick with the basic tenets.  As preservationists we typically want to support local businesses – those that support, appreciate, and create communities, those that comprise downtowns and those who have roots in the area.  Avoiding chain businesses is something that we generally strive for year round, but it might become more difficult when you need to shop for multiple people and spend a lot of money. Temptations might be rising.

Here are a few reasons for avoiding those chain stores:

1.       Shopping locally will keep money in your community.  Money in the community keeps business thriving, which translates into a good quality of life for everyone around.

2.       Local stores will probably be less crowded than the materialistic inducing megastores.  Less crowded stores mean a more pleasant shopping experience for you, which equals enjoying the holiday season and fewer cases of buyer’s remorse.

3.       Many downtowns will have special holiday shopping weekends with store specials and other incentives like snacks and cider.

4.       Employees are usually more helpful in local businesses and can spend more time helping you, when needed.

5.       With all of the scares in children’s toys and food production, you will have an easier time finding answers to those questions at smaller stores.

6.       If you normally shop locally and suddenly cave to large retailers for the holidays, then you’re not really sticking to your beliefs about preservation, are you?

7.       By shopping at chains stores during the most profitable time of the year for many businesses, you’re only supporting the chain. They don’t need to earn more money, if we’re comparing earnings here.

I could go on and on with reasons as to why local shopping is better for the community (read: your life), but we all know that dollars spent in local stores benefit your community.  If you’re up for some deep research, read this report on the affects of big box retail in Austin, TX (from FullCircle). See this blog post or this newspaper article for another list of reasons to shop locally. Chain stores represent corporate America. Yes, America is based on capitalism, but that should mean that everyone has a chance, not that only a few monopolies have a chance to make a living.  

Local Options

Local stores do not just mean “unique gifts,” if you’re not into that sort of thing.  There can be local and regional sporting good stores, toy stores, book stores, hardware stores, etc.  If you live in a city, there will be no end to stores, museum stores (some of the best kids’ gifts, by the way), festivals, flea markets, and other varieties. A place such as a flea market or a festival will probably have unique handmade items, antiques, and typical bulk items from kitchen items to pocketbooks and shoes to home décor, etc.  And okay, sometimes you can’t find everything you need locally, but don’t automatically rely on the big box retailers.

Please, before you shop, consider shopping locally or regionally.


Next in the series: what if you can’t shop locally?