Up and down the country, you’ll find an abundance of local traders and craftspeople peddling their wares to Christmas shoppers. From hand-painted baubles to spicy gingerbread, cosy gloves to best-selling biographies, there’s an overwhelming number of gifts to choose from. Here, we highlight six ways to find Christmas goodies from your local businesses.

Why shopping locally matters

We recently found that 66% of shoppers plan to buy from independent stores this Christmas. Why? Because supporting independent businesses impacted by the coronavirus is important to them. And because independent businesses often offer a more original gift selection, making for more thoughtful presents this Christmas.

When you support a local business in buying a certain product or service, your help doesn’t just benefit the business owner. There’s a ripple effect that goes up their supply chain and down to their team, helping to secure jobs and livelihoods. Of course, the same is true of when you buy from larger companies. But the impact of a purchase of equal value, is often greater when made with a smaller business.

Buying local, whether that’s for your Christmas veg or the present you’ve chosen for your mum, can also lower your carbon footprint. The fewer miles your food or gifts have travelled, the better.

1. Ask for recommendations

Most hidden gems are found through word of mouth recommendations. But in a time when we’re not having conversations face to face as often as we usually do, tips and tricks can pass us by.

This Christmas, you may need to take a more proactive approach. Why not ping a message to your most active WhatsApp group or ask your work colleagues in a morning catch-up? You could also ask your neighbours about their favourite local stores, and in turn, tell them about yours. Or you could find recommendations through a local community Facebook group or the app Nextdoor.

You could even look through the independent businesses we’ve highlighted on the Starling blog or traders we’re featuring as part of our #12DaysOfBusiness Christmas round-up on social media. Starling business customers we’ve profiled in #12DaysOfBusiness include Bird Sunglasses, based in Exeter, and Virgo & Co, a cushion company based near Newcastle.

2. Find a virtual Christmas market

This year, many Christmas markets have moved online in order to continue trading. Anyone can visit virtual Christmas markets. A few examples of online markets this Christmas are the ones organised by East Surrey, Belfast, Bath or South London - simply put the kettle on and explore the stalls at your own pace from the comfort of your sofa.

3. Visit your local farm shop

Foodie presents always go down a treat and there’s no better place to find a quirky bottle of local gin or delicious box of mince pies than your nearest farm shop. If you live in a city, you might want to go to a local wine shop or independent grocery or deli instead.

Not everyone will be able to afford to buy ingredients for their Christmas lunch at a farm shop or independent store, which tend to be more expensive than supermarkets. But you don’t have to do your entire shop locally to show your support. You could just perhaps buy a bottle of local apple juice for a neighbour or a box of chocolate biscuits for your grandad (social distancing rules permitting).

4. Browse your high street bookshop

The UK is brimming with incredible independent bookshops. In Edinburgh, there’s Lighthouse, Toppings & Co., Golden Hare Books and The Portobello Bookshop, plus a huge number of charity shops often selling well-loved stories.

Other favourites include Persephone Books in London, which reprints fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century female authors, and Sarah Key Books in Cambridge, known as ‘The Haunted Bookshop’.

If your local bookshop is temporarily closed or you’re not able to get out and about, it’s always worth checking whether they’re doing online orders. And if they’re not, you could have a look at Hive, an online bookshop that gives a portion of the sale to a local bookshop of your choice.

5. Give a friend or family member a local experience

Sometimes, experiences make for even more memorable presents than something you can wrap up. Suggestions include a voucher for a local yoga studio or dinner at your friend or family member’s favourite restaurant.

You could also book a slot at a pottery café or see if a nearby theatre or cinema is selling vouchers for when they are able to re-open.

6. Buy a local gift box

Hampers or gift boxes often include presents people would never buy for themselves but will love opening and indulging in. Thriving Box Co. works with businesses all over the UK to make gift boxes local to your area, stuffed with festive treats. Potential items include craft coffee, tasty jams and luxury candles.

This year hasn’t been easy on anyone but remember that whatever you can afford to spend can make a difference to that small business or sole trader. Why not help spread the word by telling friends and family about your favourite local businesses, or find the business on social media and share a post?

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