For many people, a huge part of the holiday season is the gifts. Whether it’s for your friends or family (or even yourself), gift shopping can be a fun yet taxing activity. Since Black Friday, stores have been offering sales and promotions left and right and malls are undoubtedly busier than ever this time of year. While shopping for presents, you might even encounter the problem of what to buy for your loved ones (and what if they already have what you’re buying?). All this can be extremely overwhelming for any shopper, but don’t give up just yet.
Since working at a retail store a few years ago, I’ve seen and learned all about the holiday shopping rush. As a result, I tend to avoid trips to the mall during this season whenever possible. However, I also enjoy buying gifts for friends and family. Thankfully, I found a great alternative to mall shopping: holiday markets. These often featured small businesses and independent artisans. I would search out any ongoing holiday markets online and visit them during my days off to see for myself the products being sold. To my delight, I was not disappointed.
Photo by Artem Bali
Shopping from artisans and small businesses often includes one of a kind, limited run items that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. I fell in love with the unique pieces each artist would create, often by hand, with all of its quirks and imperfections. These are where you would find gifts you normally don’t see at the mall, whether it’s because the item is uncommon or it’s personalized. You might find cheaper alternatives and have a great variety of options to choose from. Over the years, I’ve found and bought great gifts from these markets, ranging from a one-of-a-kind silver labradorite necklace to underwear with Drake’s face on it (don’t ask).
Another aspect of this that I’ve enjoyed are the conversations I’ve had with the artisans themselves. While shopping with these small businesses, you’ll often see the people who made the products right in front of you. These are great opportunities for a shopper to ask any questions about the products they’re interested in and maybe even the process behind making it. I’ve always had a pleasant experience talking to artisans as they are so accommodating and incredibly passionate about their craft. Often, they are happy to entertain any customers and even personally help you out if you’re having a hard time choosing. On occasion, some might even be willing to make some last minute arrangements for you.
When you compliment their work and products (and the biggest compliment is by purchasing), you can actually see the joy and appreciation in the artisan’s face. These instances make me realize that I’m not just purchasing an item or making an already established brand richer, I’m actually supporting a small business and perhaps someone’s dream. This experience makes me look forward to shopping and giving gifts to my loved ones, who are often interested in hearing the story behind their gifts. These seasonal markets are the best way for artisans to get their name and products out into the open. I highly encourage everyone to check out a nearby holiday market and see what the artisans there offer. What you find may even surprise you. Happy shopping and happy holidays!