How To Support Local & Small Businesses This Christmas

'Tis the season to shop small.

by Sophie McEvoy
Originally Published: 
Beautiful afro haired woman wearing protective medical face mask in christmas decorated shop

Christmas shopping will certainly be different this year, but it's also an opportunity to change your retail habits. Instead of having a mad dash around the shopping centre, why not learn how to shop local and small this Christmas? Since the beginning of the pandemic, independent businesses and the hospitality sector have seen a major reduction in sales — with many facing an uncertain future. But as the festive period is the peak selling season, choosing local and independent services over the big names can make a huge difference.

As the three-tier system is set to return across England on Dec. 2, the stress of getting on top of Christmas shopping will be even higher than usual. One way to relieve that pressure is to put more thought into where you’re shopping, rather than what you’re shopping for. According to Visa, if everyone in the local community spent £5 extra a week in small businesses, “it would help to keep them local in the long term,” via the Independent.

But if you’re not familiar with your local shops or have recently moved to the area, where do you even start? Are they available online? Here are some ideas to get you going this festive season:

Ask friends, neighbours, family, and colleagues

Throughout the pandemic, communities across the country have banded together to provide help and supplies for neighbours through the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook. With that many locals, there's bound to be dozens of unique recommendations in your area that you haven't discovered yet.

You could even kickstart a group specifically on local Christmas shopping if there isn't one already, where you can share local recommendations, present ideas, and vouchers.

And if your family, friends, or colleagues live locally, see what independent shops they frequent on the daily.

Check if your fave local shop is online

Once the first lockdown started in March, many non-essential businesses went online and relied on orders to keep their shops afloat. This trend continued through reimplementations of restrictions as well as a second lockdown, and while non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen in all tiers of the returning scheme, many will rely more on online spaces.

Checking if your favourite store is online is simple enough, but if they don't seem to be offering online orders it's worth contacting them directly. You never know, they may offer orders over the phone or a click and collect service from their stores.

Support the hospitality industry with takeaways & vouchers

The reimplementation of the tiered system on Dec. 2 will hit the hospitality industry the hardest. However, restaurants and pubs that can offer takeaway or click and collect services will be able to continue service in the highest tier.

To support your local venues, it's always worth checking whether you can use vouchers or offer codes to use on sites like Groupon and VoucherCodes. And if you've never used delivery services like Uber Eats or Deliveroo, they often offer promos for first-time orders.

Use independent seller sites

Hand-crafted gifts always add a special aura to the season of giving, and there are plenty of independent sellers out there ready and waiting for your orders. Sites like Etsy, Trouva, Not on the High Street, Jamii, and Redbubble offer a variety of gift ideas by artists across the UK.

You could also look more locally by asking your neighbours for suggestions. You never know who you know what owns a small business themselves, and you'll also be safe in the mind that you'll definitely receive whatever you purchase by Christmas.

Download & use these helpful apps

Independent sellers may also use an array of apps to sell their items. For those after clothes you won't find anywhere else, Depop provides a platform for a number of independent businesses — possibly even locally. Instagram also has a shopping feature described by Wired as a "digital mall", where you'll find a variety of local and non-local stores.

Apps like OLIO and Pixie are a must-download for discovering local businesses and sellers, with OLIO offering the ability for neighbours to list and sell items.

Visit a virtual Christmas market

Many councils made the decision to forgo Christmas markets this year, with cities across the UK having to cancel their Christmas markets. However, places like York and Bath have managed to get around this by hosting virtual markets where you can buy locally produced food, drink, and homemade gifts that will be delivered straight to your door.

Shop for local produce

Instead of going on your weekly supermarket trip, why not discover what independently-owned stores are on your doorstep? From butchers to fruit and veg shops, there are plenty of ways to support local food producers through these independent shops. Looking on directory sites like Yell and directories by your local council are a great place to start.

And for those who love a subscription, why not find a local fruit and veg box company? There are plenty of businesses across the UK that provide weekly or fortnightly deliveries of fruits and vegetables that are deemed not aesthetically pleasing by supermarkets.

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