Sometimes this season’s cool gifts are like ghosts of Christmas past. They are rarely seen, and yet they linger: a faux fur hat, orange size-12 knitted booties, a portable DVD player, and many other items cluttering the back of the hall closet. Giving great gifts means going beyond just what is “hot” this holiday season, which is both tricky and rewarding. We all know that the special people in our lives love gifts that take time and thought. Yet in today’s busy world, time to think is often in short supply. So how can we simplify shopping, do it with less time and still find wonderful presents? Here are few tips from Cape Girardeau’s Main Street insiders on how shopping small for the holidays can greatly simplify gift giving.
The first thing that gets most shoppers nervous about gifting is focusing too much on “getting a gift” and not who’s receiving it. A good rule of thumb is gifts that will be used are most valuable to the recipient. This doesn’t mean buying your girlfriend a hammer. Instead, Laurie Everett, owner of Annie Laurie’s Antiques advises, “Knowing the person and picking a gift based on their hobbies and interests is always a good way to go.” Look online to see what shops in your area carry those special niche items.
Seek out the truly unique and awesome.
For an independent boutique to survive, it must be unique. Some shops are like mine and create each item for the store; other shops weed through thousands of products to find the most exceptional. Emilie Stephens of Annie-Em’s says she starts looking for distinctive holiday products for her store in spring to make shopping as easy as possible.
Look for products with a story.
One great thing about small shops is that we know our products inside and out. Ask us about any product, and we can tell you the smallest details and who are the folks with whom it’s most popular. For example at Renaissance, Sherry and Mike Yaeger train their team on all the back stories, uses, benefits and unbelievably cool facts of gifts from Sid Dickens, Charles Viancin lids, and the 115-year-old brand, Lampe Berger. This can greatly simplify making decisions and give the gift giver extra “cool-factor” for being so knowledgeable.
Any good shopkeeper will keep lists of what his/her customers like, need and want. So if you know your gift recipient’s favorite independent boutique, there is a good chance the owner will have the low down on what they want. Shops like Somewhere in Time Antiques keep formal wish registries where people can submit their holiday or birthday wish lists. This way, their loved ones can have an easier time getting the gifts they really want.
Go to a place with a great atmosphere.
If you don’t feel comfortable shopping, it could show in your gift. Small businesses get that a store’s atmosphere can change your mood and your confidence in what you buy. Mostly because we are in our own shops for 10+ hours each day, and we want everyone to be as happy as possible. That’s why stores like Pastimes Antiques in Cape Girardeau selects a mix of vintage music to put shoppers at ease.
Give a gift that gives back.
Holidays pack a double whammy for most budgets – spending on gifts and donating to charities. More and more independent shops follow the model of gifting a portion of a sale to local charity. Boutiques like Philanthropy give back at least 10 percent of each sale to charity.
Most small shop owners are like me; we would rather refer you to a neighbor than sell you the wrong gift or watch you go away empty handed. It builds goodwill with our customers and neighbors. Referrals are not limited to products, they can also be made before services are rendered. At my shop, Sloan+Themis, I often work with our neighbors, Zickfield’s and Jayson’s Jewelers, for fine jewelry items that we don’t carry. I also work with Stash, a great destination for other accessories such as belts and scarves.
In short, we want you to make your gift recipient as happy as you do. I wish you a very happy holiday season and simple shopping.
Written by Claire Bruce, owner of Sloan+Themis, Missouri’s emerging brand of vintage and hand-crafted jewelry made on the banks of the Mississippi River.