2021 isn’t normal. So why should the holiday season be different? Many people (smartly) are not returning home for the holidays. Some people are avoiding gift giving due to financial concerns or general stress. As someone who enjoys picking gifts for everyone on my holiday list, and as someone who is fortunate to have a full time job, I’m not ready to abandon the tradition. This holiday season, I will be shopping for fewer people and making it a point not to buy gifts from large businesses.

wrapped gift box

Since the pandemic, I have been cleaning out my closet more than I would like to admit. My closet isn’t getting any bigger despite me giving out a huge donation bag every time. After coming face-to-face in my own excess and realizing that I still wear the same 10 items every time I go to quarantine, I decided to quit fast-fashion, which is responsible for most of the items in the bags.

My lack of restraint wasn’t the only reason why I stopped shopping with brands that are known for their low prices and quick turnarounds. Small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges in 2020. Many small businesses are still struggling to make rent, let alone profit, months after being forced to shut down by shelter-in-place or lockdown orders in spring. After stores in New York City had reopened, I was surprised to find myself walking by a children’s clothing store just around the corner of my apartment. It was a well-curated shop that I often found myself going to when I needed last-minute gifts for my niece. It was now completely empty.

glass window with Closed down print

Although it was the first time I saw that scene in New York City, it has been far from the last. It’s difficult to justify spending money on local businesses (from boutiques to restaurants) when you see the struggles they are going through. You are not the only one. A Visa survey found that 60% of Americans plan to shop at local stores this holiday season. While many people shop at independent, small businesses for their holiday shopping, I believe the pandemic was a major turning point.

Anyone who has ever felt the excitement of finding a bargain on a fashion item knows that the hardest thing about quitting is the inability to purchase it as an impulse buy or retail therapy. This is especially true after a long week and several glasses of wine. It’s hard to deny the convenience of having it delivered in two days, especially since I can stay at home for days. Although it might seem like an inconvenience, I have a closet that delights and Amazon has been my trusted source for everything, from cleaning supplies to fast fashion to last-minute gifts.

Although I realize that it is impossible to be a sustainable buyer if you don’t buy new items, fashion gives me so much joy that I refuse to stop buying them. In order to avoid buying new items, I now make a conscious effort to shop secondhand (Thrilling is an online marketplace for vintage shops across the country). Face masks aside, I have been wearing a pair Victor Glemaud’s yellow zebra-print knit trousers since March. A knit skirt by Telfar, a Brooklyn-based brand that includes AOC as a fan. A letter charm from Lulu Frost (a New York-based jewelry company) that has since announced it is taking a break. These items weren’t cheap, but I treasure them for a long time.

Yes, Zara’s sales and latest collections are still something I look at with my coworkers. I can almost imagine what I would buy if Zara was last year. After closing all 10 tabs on the Spanish retailer’s blowout sale, it was weeks before I could even remember what items I wanted to buy. Instead, of waiting months for Tombolo’s spaghetti alle Vongole camp shirt to be restocked, I bought it within minutes of receiving the back-in stock alert. It brings me joy every single time I take it out. Similar effects can be seen on Susan Alexandra’s website with her shrimp cocktail earrings.

woman sitting on brown wooden chair while using silver laptop computer in room

It has been exciting to see what other people are buying. It has been amazing to witness moments of community and solidarity during the worst of times since the pandemic. My circle supports independent shops and local businesses. I was complimented by a colleague for her printed face mask. I then discovered Naomi Alessandra, an artist and illustrator, who makes cloth face covers that I’d love to wear with a Second Wind necklace. Selkie is a collection of whimsically designed dresses that I was introduced to by a colleague. I immediately bookmarked it to save for when I plan my wedding events. My boss was obsessing over the fabrics of Brooklyn-based sustainable brand Softwear. The founder hand-dye each tie-dye piece. I am now waiting for the arrival the softest shirt I’ve ever worn. If that is true, there may be many sweatpants and hoodies under the Christmas tree. I get excited every time a friend posts a Brother Vellies Something Special delivery via Instagram. It sends me running to their website to purchase a pair Cloud Socks.

This is only the fashion section. Burlap & Barrel spices and their life-altering powers could be the subject of a whole article.

As I keep an eye on the holidays, I have been compiling a list of small brands that have come my way since the pandemic. The gifts will be smaller than in years past, with many face masks created by Cloud Socks and independent artists. However, each person has been carefully selected. Some gifts, such as those for the children, will be delivered from the nearby store. Others can be ordered online and shipped in plenty of time.

If you plan to shop online from small businesses, it is important that you get started immediately. Orders can be placed now to avoid holiday rush and help brands and stores that were affected by the pandemic. An American Express survey found that 46% of small business owners expect to see above-average holiday sales in order to remain in business in 2022. 64% believe that Small Business Saturday is becoming more important than ever. It’s a day following Black Friday for people to shop locally and small businesses.

If you’re like me, eight months of abstaining from impulse-shopping at night has made it clear that I’m more than ready for retail therapy and to support the businesses in greatest need.

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