Shop local for Christmas

Avoid over-commercialization of Christmas by supporting your community and something thoughtful, unique, affordable and made to last.

Editor:

“Buying local” does not just refer to purchasing locally cultivated foods and wines. It includes shopping at small local businesses and purchasing items produced and handcrafted in our own cities and towns.

In the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, the art and artisan business community is slowly growing, but most of these businesses rely on self-promotion and do need the support of their community to prosper.

In 2010, Canadians imported over $637,000,000 in visual art related goods, the vast majority being from the United States. This figure does not include books or other printed materials, film, video, or music. If we all made the attempt to purchase Canadian-made goods over imported goods could you imagine how much stronger our dollar would be? This $637 million dollars is a lot of money! Why are we buying these goods made south-of-the-border that could be purchased in our own backyard from our own family, friends and neighbours – improving our own economy?

Where do you plan to Christmas shop this year? If you see yourself at the shopping mall last-minute, chances are you are one of the many people who hate Christmas shopping. The packed parking lots and crazed drivers, overwhelming hordes of people, and never-ending line-ups are enough to give anyone a panic attack.

“Makin’ a list, and checkin’ it twice” after December 15th is a guaranteed disaster. Plan ahead. Start a list on your smartphone or personal notebook and work on it year round. Explore your local shops. Subscribe to your local city’s Facebook pages, as well your local Arts Council’s page for upcoming events, festivals, and craft fairs.

If you are like me, and would rather sit in the comfort of your own home, maybe sipping a specialty coffee in your pyjamas while shopping, I am here to tell you that “online shopping” does not have to mean making credit card purchases through Amazon or eBay and waiting weeks for parcels to arrive. I belong to a few Facebook groups, but for shopping purposes the one I highly recommend is “Handmade in B.C. Buy and Sell.” This group is exclusively for items handcrafted in British Columbia, and currently boasts over 3,300 members and the number is climbing. All “Sale Posts” must include a price, and a pick-up or ship-from location in B.C.

Buyers are welcome to post questions, and ISO (in search of) posts, and everyone is very friendly and helpful. An added bonus to shopping directly from individuals on a site such as this is items are priced more affordably. This is because there is no middle-man or company marking the item up to cover the overhead costs of running a store.

Now, when you think “handmade” what comes to mind? Crafts you made as a kid? Sweet smelling candles and soaps? These are available too, but think bigger. Think skillfully handcrafted baby moccasins, funky leather belts (show belts), a Game of Thrones themed handbag, or a unique custom bed frame crafted by a Master Red Seal carpenter with a lifetime warranty.

Think trendy knitted accessories like the pair of owl-themed fingerless mitts I claimed last week on Handmade in B.C. Buy and Sell. Also purchased from the same woman – super adorable children toques, her own design, made to the child sizes I asked for. Not to mention all three items were ready for picking-up within two days and she lived a five minute drive from my house. Now this is my kind of shopping.

Do you still plan on running to the mall last minute to do your shopping? Plan ahead and explore your options. Try to buy goods made by local, creative and talented individuals over south-of-the-line or factory produced goods under possible brow-raising conditions.

Avoid the over-commercialization of Christmas by supporting your local community and enjoy the hunt for that special gift – something thoughtful, unique, affordable and made to last.

Stephanie Shanklin, Langley

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