I used to be one of those people up in the pre-dawn hours standing in the cold waiting for a store to open. Not the kind that would go camping or anything but I would arrive 30 to 45 minutes early, get in line and keep warm with thoughts of getting the door prizes and items on my holiday list for a steal. I would hit several stores before the sun was even up trying to get the list of items I made. It was a rush in my system that was fun and exciting. By noon I’d be home, tired, full of coffee and have the car stacked with holiday gifts to be wrapped. It was rewarding and fulfilling to say holiday shopping was done mostly on one day so I could then focus on other fun stuff.
These days I shop mostly online. Things arrive steadily on my porch in brown boxes I can even wrap directly that way sometimes. It isn’t as aerobic in exertion or dark and cold but I’ve still found I enjoy the process of shopping. Finding that ideal gift, something someone really wanted is wonderful. Online shopping allows me to be a little more selective and even price compare better which also makes me happy. No it isn’t the same as having a mission, stack of fliers, hand written list and a roadmap of pre-dawn Friday shopping blitzes but it has expanded my view of how I shop and where.
Many of us are on a budget. My family definitely sets a holiday budget and we even try to come in under it as there is always something else that will be needed. It’s not a secret holidays are expensive and there is still daily life to pay for too like the one year our heat pump went out the week before Christmas. Life just has that way of keeping things real at times. The budget is often the deciding factor of where to shop for the best deals. That lends nicely to shopping at the big box stores with their sales and special offers to get decent items that work within our budgets.
It is easy to shop those kinds of places. They are organized all the same way, there’s pleasant music playing and plenty of selections. One stop with a metal cart to pus around also has its advantages of convenience and time savings too. Yet all that sterile and bulk look alike items leaves something missing. It doesn’t feel the same and I often find it checks something off a list but that’s all the feeling I get from it. While the gift can still be made to look brilliant and is sure to be appreciated, the experience of shopping for it just isn’t the same. It is just another item in a big box store that looks like the 50 others just like it, that will be wrapped and given this season. Hopefully not re-gifted or returned too.
Maybe it’s the setting or perhaps the item itself but there is this gap in what it feels like to shop and find that thing. The process feels as blah as the piped in music trying to make it into something it can never be. I think personally it is the loss of personal relationship with the lines of self-serve check-outs and bleep of machines reading tags. It is the rush to get in and out so other things can be done. It is the while I’m here let me grab some grocery items or other things that don’t relate to holiday gifts. It is all blended together in overstuffed shelves calling our attention. Those few bucks we’re saving can be used for those items we tossed in the cart anyway.
The Saturday after Black Friday traditionally known as Shop Small Business Saturday speaks to this gap in how we shop. It reminds us of that aspect of finding unique, special gifts that probably also fit our budgets. There is a nudge to revisit what it feels like to browse beautiful stores well arranged and flowing rather than large departments. There is this element of special to it that feels welcoming and unique. It even smells different! There is a happy person greeting us who looks us in the eye and asks if we need any help. There are bags with tissue paper in them to make the purchase we made feel incredible walking out of the store carrying.
With the events of the last couple years and now increased tax bases for businesses, many small businesses are threatened in their existence. It is no longer a matter of counting on that little boutique we drive by to always be there for maybe next time. The shop small message reminds of that delicacy for sure and calls us to consider local merchants and home based businesses as much as possible for that reason but it does something else for us too. It calls us back to the experience of shopping natural. The service we receive being hands down improved for one but also the service we provide each other in the experience and process of shopping a small business. There is nothing quite like it.
I like to browse small towns that have been revitalized with small shops lining the main street. The jingle of the bell when you open the door and creak of old floors as you slowly browse the racks. It is not only a harken to olden times but of quality, timeliness and uniqueness. The ability to shop in this way brings a feeling over you. I often find way more interesting and unique gifts that bring me happiness knowing how perfect it is for the intended recipient. It is compounded by the engagement of the owner marveling at the piece and telling me why they also liked it as they carefully wrap it in paper for me. When I walk out of a store like that I feel like I have truly shopped well.
Even though most of my shopping is online I have found ways to bring that small business feeling into that as well. I browse the sites that include small businesses in their product offerings and even look up direct small business websites. Sure it is a little more time consuming than just hitting Wal-Mart or Target but it feels so much more fulfilling. Often those boxes have sweet notes of thanks in them and are already packaged for easy gifting too. I know the owner carefully packed it themselves just like they would have were I standing in front of them. It feels connected and part of a service experience that cannot be replicated in the big box stores.
I encourage you to shop small all year long as much as possible but especially this time of year for the holidays. For natural gift options and small business engagement, shop with me! Visit dragonspitapothecary.com You can even use the chat on the website to talk directly with me for help anytime.