How to shop local and support small businesses this Christmas

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

Consider this your ultimate guide to a more meaningful Christmas shopping experience.

It’s that time of year again, when Michael Buble urges us to have a holly jolly Christmas and Mariah Carey reminds us that the presents underneath the tree aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. (Love, she insists quite rightly, is key to a very happy holiday season).

That being said, though, Christmas shopping is one of the festive season’s most time-honoured traditions. 

And, this year in particular, we’re being urged to think a little harder about the gifts we’re buying and where we’re buying them from.

Oh yes: while it’s infinitely easier to shop with big companies, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means that we’re all being urged to shop locally. Indeed, almost half of small business owners say that if everyone in their local community just spent £5 extra per week with small businesses it would help to keep them open in the long term, according to The Independent.

But, with yet another lockdown upon us, how can we support our communities? Here, we’ve pulled together some ideas for a meaningful Christmas shopping guide, which should hopefully inspire you to spend your money with those who’ll appreciate it most.

Because, to quote Hello, Dolly!’s eponymous character, money – pardon the expression – is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.

Happy shopping.

Ask your neighbours for recommendations

The majority of towns and villages have community pages set up on Facebook, as I discovered during the first of this year’s lockdowns. Recently, I popped up a post asking everyone to share their favourite indy shops and businesses (with an aim to ensure I support those around me during the Christmas period) and just under an hour later I had over 50 recommendations to scroll through.

If your area doesn’t have a Facebook page, though, don’t despair: the Nextdoor app is also a great way to instantly connect to the people, businesses, and happenings near your home (as well as pore over local gossip, too).

Visit a virtual Christmas market

That’s right, wannabe elves: many Christmas fairs and markets are taking their business online this year. The East Surrey Online Christmas Market, for example, has well over 4,000 members, and sees pre-approved stallholders share their wares via Facebook posts and photos. Kilkenny Christmas Market, meanwhile, acts as a virtual shop for local independent businesses. And Bath’s famous Christmas market has, too, taken its offerings online.

Give your area a google and see if there are any virtual fairs set up. And, if there aren’t any, why not consider setting one up yourself? It’s a great way to support indy businesses and small local shops – as well as a great way to rally some community spirit, too.

Support your local farmer or deli

When it comes to sourcing your roast dinner, it’s all too easy to head to one of the big supermarkets. Don’t forget about local farm shops and delis, though: from fresh fruit and vegetables, to delicious cakes and pastries, to the roast turkey itself, many allow you to place orders well in advance – and there are usually plenty of bargains to be found, too.

Treat your friends to dinner

It doesn’t have to be now, of course, but many restaurants and bars are now offering gift cards, so friends can still treat each other to dinner – which could be the perfect Christmas gift, quite honestly, as it’ll give them something to daydream about long into the new year.

… or even a cinema date

Whether you plan to use them yourself later in the year or give them to friends and family as presents, buying gift vouchers in lieu of cinema tickets is a great way to support your local movie theatre.

Opt for handmade gifts

Whether you’re on the search for jewellery, posters, mugs or blankets, there are so many handmade businesses out there just waiting to be discovered. So why not swerve the usual big brands and instead shop online via sites such as Etsy, Not On The High Street, Wakuda, and Folksy?

Visit an (online) indy bookstore

As previously reported by Stylist, there’s a small pool of Black-owned bookshops across the UK that are currently closed due to the pandemic, but they’re still taking online orders. Check out our list of these independent bookshops which either specialise in texts that relate to Black culture, or are owned by a person of colour and spread the word to help them increase their sales and feel your support.

… or gift them a unique reading subscription service

And Other Stories is a not-for-private-profit company that focuses on publishing fresh, contemporary fiction.Think of world-class writing, not ‘world writing’.

“So far we have concentrated on translations because there are so many amazing writers currently not available to readers in English,” explains a site spokesperson.

Subscribe now for two, four, or six titles per year to support forthcoming books, and you’ll be thanked by name inside each of the books your subscription helps make happen. Well worth the wait, right?

Support Black-owned businesses

Black-owned businesses are more likely to struggle than those with white owners for a plethora of reasons, so why not make an effort to purchase products or services with local and online Black-owned businesses? 

To help get you started, we’ve created a lifestyle edit of 14 Black-owned brands, from stationery to candles, to buy something from this Christmas.

Sign them up to online classes or clubs

From yoga workouts to cooking classes, crystal healing workshops to creative writing courses, many businesses are now offering their services online. So why not source a course that suits your loved one, sign them up as a Christmas gift, and help support an indy organisation in the process?

Leave positive reviews

It’s not enough to shop from amazing small businesses: you need to tell the world about their outstanding service and unique products, too. Share your photos and thoughts on social media, leave a review, tell your friends about your new discovery, share your thoughts with them via email, and help others find this small business!

Images: Getty/Mohamed Zaheri/Unsplash

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