Do you need a reason to shop small this season? I don’t. As a former journalist whose beat was covering my hometown’s retail scene, I might be biased. Perusing stores owned by independent, local retailers who stock their shelves with finds I’m unlikely to come across online is my favorite way to shop. Now that we’ve sold our home and embraced nomadic living, most of my shopping is for foodie finds that we can consume, or fun gifts to give others. Thank goodness for grandchildren!
In case you’re looking for reasons to leave your computer, bundle up, and get out to the stores and shop small this season, I have curated a selection of them for you.
1.The Supply Chain Conundrums of 2021
As Margaret Renkl points out in her New York Times essay, Forget Amazon. The Best Gifts Are Closer Than You Think., shopping small can help you overcome the supply chain hurdles promised this holiday shopping season.
2. Have Fun Times with Friends
Going through a store with friends and finding the things one another might love, want, or even need is delightful. Have you ever sat at a computer shopping with a friend and having fun? I think not. So go out and shop. Take some selfies together. Then find a place to relax, dine, and enjoy a tasty beverage, or two.
3. Customer Service
When I asked a gentleman working at Old Town Candy and Toys if the store had any Prickly Pear candies, he knew exactly where and what the options were, pointed them out to me, and explained the differences. At the counter, after ringing my items, he placed them in a paper bag that could be repurposed as a gift bag, and came around the counter to hand the bag of goodies I purchased for grandchildren to me. There’s something about those touches that I absolutely adore. I guess it’s that so much care is expressed. What customer service touches do you love?
4. The Merchandising
Thoughtfully curated, well-merchandised shops filled with clever items are great places to find what you didn’t know you needed, yet make life better once you buy them. After all, I didn’t know that The Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce would be a must-have at our dinner table until I saw the words raspberry and chipotle together at F&W on Main.
You can surprise and delight those on your holiday list with something unexpected that you’re only going to find on an independent retailer’s shelves. Even better, if you’re traveling, you might give them something they didn’t even know existed. Prickly Pear goodies have been a revelation for me. I’d never heard of the prickly pear before arriving in Arizona. The Cactus Candy pictured above is made using real prickly pear juice. Every prickly pear delight I have tasted, I’ve loved.
6. Learn New Things
Conversations with people who care about what they sell and are well-versed on the origin stories of what they carry can be fascinating (and educational). Just last week, while picking out a necklace at the Native Art Market, I learned that turtles symbolize longevity and eternal life in Indigenous communities.
7. Keep Main Streets Vibrant
Perhaps one of the best reasons of all to shop small: If we do all of our shopping online and at big box retailers, there won’t be any local shops selling quality wares, or retailers able to offer suggestions for that just right gift. If every city and town consists of the same big box stores, or no stores at all, how many draws will there be for tourists? If every place is the same, I might as well stay home.
Isn’t it nice to visit a bustling Main Street, or shopping district full of energy and cheer? The sort with restaurants mixed into the fun? We love to visit these areas when we travel. Some recent shopping grounds we love:
8. Get Acquainted with Local Fashions & Food
Shopping small while traveling acquaints you with local fashions and foods. My Baja cardigan, Hematite and Sodalite turtle necklace, and new fun dress are all items I bought in Old Town Scottsdale. You can see them all in our Does Uptown Phoenix Meet Our Specific Neighborhood Needs? video. I don’t think I’d see them at a store in Minnesota, especially at this time of year. I feel like a fashionable local when I wear them.
Before visiting the Southwest, I’d never eaten anything prickly pear flavored. Now I’ve bought (and eaten) prickly pear popcorn and taffy. I’ve drank prickly pear mimosas and margaritas (another story, another time). Hatch chile seasoned pecans and popcorn are also new to my tastebuds. They’re delicious. All of it is. Small stores have introduced me to so many flavors.
9. Support NonProfits
Shop small to support the places and causes you love. Some theaters, museums, zoos, gardens, and National Parks have fantastic gift shops. Our grandchildren know that the best place to ask grandma for candy and toys is in an organization’s gift shop.
10. Making Friends Thanks To Tourist Apparel
Wearing the White Sands t-shirt I bought in the National Park’s gift shop is a big conversation starter. People who have been there, or who are from that area of the country wave me down and share their stories. I’ve had the same happen when carrying a MetroCard tote that I bought in the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store. We’ve even received preferential treatment at restaurants from servers who have fond memories of time spent in NYC thanks to my tote.