It’s that time of year again, when 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 which – unless you’re one of those big girly swots who had theirs bought and wrapped by December 1st – is in full swing at the moment.
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. In a year that has been like no other our local independent stores who are the heart of our community and high streets need us to give them our gift of custom this Christmas.
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 how can we support our communities? Here, I’ve pulled together some ideas for how to support your local independents, which should hopefully inspire you to spend your money with those who’ll appreciate it most.
Ask your neighbours, friends and colleagues for recommendations
Recently, to support Holly & Co’s #CampaignShopIndependent I shared posts on social media asking people share their favourite independent businesses, with an aim of discovering exciting new places I didn’t know about, and within a few hours I had over 20 recommendations of amazing businesses that I’m planning to visit in the lead up to Christmas and beyond.
Visit a virtual Christmas market
We all love a Christmas market, and I’ve missed not having our Liverpool wooden huts up this year. But they are still taking place virtually, albeit without the accompanying smells of garlic and gluhwein in the air.
A new Facebook group set up back in September is proving to be a valuable resource for local businesses during the busiest shopping period of the year.
The Virtual Christmas Markets group allows shoppers to search through the group to find exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s a scented candle or a pair of socks.
The group is focused on Manchester and the surrounding area and is filling the void left by the cancellation of the markets.
And if you’d like to visit a real-life craft fair the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool is hosting their Winter Arts Market Mini Edition presented by Open Culture on Saturday 12th December. You need to book a time slot for visiting – I’ve already got my ticket!
Support your local farmer, deli, butcher or greengrocer
When it comes to sourcing your roast dinner, don’t forget about local farm shops, butchers, bakers and delis: 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.
My absolute favourite local farm shop is Claremont Farm on the Wirral, and if you’re looking for the best meat and turkey visit Edge & Son butchers in New Ferry where people come from miles to shop at this local butchers revered by Michelin chefs for their rare breeds and quality.
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. I don’t even know where to begin with my recommendations for eating out as I have so many favourites, it’s like trying to decide who my favourite child is….but here goes, Mowgli Street Food, there, I’ve said it.
… or even a night out at the theatre or comedy club
Let’s face it they very thought of booking in a night of live entertainment after we’ve been starved of it for almost a year is likely to take you straight in at number one in your friends and family gift charts! Buying a gift voucher in lieu of a night out is not only a great gift for a friend or relative but it’s also a way of gifting your local community live venues.
In Liverpool and the North West, we are spoilt for amazing theatres: buy gift vouchers via their box office or website. Some of my favourites – which I am desperate to get back to soon – are Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, The Liverpool Philharmonic.
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 shop instead local. MerseyMade in Liverpool city centre stock a wide range of products made lovingly by local creators in the Merseyside region. From gin, jewellery, artwork and clothing and a lot more in-between. They provide a fantastic platform for local sellers to get their products out to local people and really support the ‘shop local’ initiative.
Buy a subscription for a local retailer
More and more local businesses provide flexible subscriptions so you can enjoy their products on a regular basis: the gift that quite literally keeps on giving. Local florists, craft breweries, wine shops, speciality coffee shops, there’s something available for everyone. Some of my favourites are Liverpool Cheese Company who offer a 3-months cheese club membership; Beers@No42, a small Wirral business who curate taster packs of beers which are available on a monthly, quarterly or 6-monthly subscription; and Crosby Coffee who deliver different blends of freshly roasted coffee beans to your door every month.
Sign loved ones 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.
I attend a fantastic Pilates class on Zoom run by a fantastic local instructor called Louise Thompson of Heswall Pilates 4 All. It’s just £20 a month for up to four classes a week.
Have you heard of Barre? It’s a class inspired by elements of ballet, yoga and Pilates. Barre Balance studio in Liverpool provide online classes, up to 60 per month. They also provide corporate memberships for responsible employers looking to support the wellbeing of their colleagues.
Leave positive reviews, support Campaign Shop Independent
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. Please use the hashtag #CampaignShopIndependent and support the national campaign to support our local independents.
Holly Tucker, founder of Not on The High Street and Holly & Co has launched #CampaignShopIndependent. Please do use this hashtag in your posts when talking about independent businesses and get behind the campaign. They have also developed a free downloadable marketing kit for containing a library of creative assets such as social media images for #CampaignShopIndependent which you can access here.