If you have been following me on social media you may have seen my many posts about 'shopping small' or 'shopping local'. What I mean by this is supporting small businesses rather than visiting the usual High Street shops. This is slightly easier said than done especially if this idea is new to you. I planned on doing this on the run up to Christmas last year but somehow found myself leaving things till the last minute and once again fighting the crowds on Buchanan Street. I thought I would try and give you all some shopping tips so hopefully you can avoid some of the mistakes I made last year! But first, why shop small? As a small business owner myself it might seem like I'm bringing all this up purely for my own personal gain but I promise that’s not it!
When you visit a big high street clothes shop do you know who made the clothes you are buying? Does that overworked and poorly paid sales girl really care what you buy? Personally I find shopping straight from makers or from small independently run shops a much more enjoyable experience and you can see exactly where your money is going. You are buying directly from an individual or small team and genuinely are making someone happy. These large retailers tend to follow trends and often all end up selling the same things. Supporting small independent shops helps keep our communities vibrant and unique. So anyway here are my 3 top tips for a happy shopping (small) experience.
1. Start Early!
One of the great things about shopping small means what your buying might be made to order just for you. This however takes time! Don't miss out as you have left it too late or the shop owner is inundated with orders. The Christmas period is really important to small businesses and can often tide them over financially in the quieter months. That being said there are only so many hours in the day so if everyone orders mid-December it could lead to important sales being turned away. Also you can bask in the smug satisfaction of having all you presents wrapped and ready to go weeks before everyone else!
2. Make wish lists on an online Marketplace such as Etsy or Not On The High Street.
Shopping small still means you can shop comfortably from your sofa! I sell on Etsy and buy a lot of pieces from there. I love it now but it can take a bit of getting used to. Anyone can join and sell on Etsy, which means there is a very wide range of work - ranging from the incredible to the rather questionable! Having so many sellers means you should be able to find what you are looking for but it can be a bit daunting filtering out what you want. I would recommend making a profile and liking as many shops and items you can find that you are interested in. The more information Etsy has the more likely it will recommend you other sellers you will actually be interested in. If I come across someone who's work I like on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest I always favourite his or her Etsy Shop. I find it much easier to go back and look though my shop favourites rather than to try and remember individuals shop names and where I came across them.
3. Find out what’s happening in your area.
Thankfully it's not just me who's excited about shopping small and every year there seems to be more craft markets, open studios and pop-ups opening up across the country. The Stylist magazine have published an article recently titled "How Craft Fairs became Cool" and a shopping gallery of “Under-The-Radar Female Makers” mentioning Tea Green Events, Etsy Made Local and Urban Market - all based in Scotland. I’m lucky to have moved into Glasgow’s Hidden Lane this year and we are opening our doors every Saturday on the run up to Christmas so anyone can pop in and shop straight from the makers. Wandering around fairs you never know what hidden gems you might find and the increase in carefully curated craft markets (as mentioned above) means the standard is higher than ever.
Final Thoughts. Its only a few days away so I feel like I have to mention Black Friday at this point. I am not a fan of Black Friday. Black Friday originated in America and encourages retailers to dramatically slash their prices. I have never taken part in Black Friday but get asked every year what I’ll be doing for it. Ugh. I know we all love a bargain but is there anything more annoying than buying something full price one day and then seeing it 70% off the next? It leaves the buyer feeling ripped off. Large retailers can plan their mark-ups and prices with a profit margin big enough for the inevitable discount. I (like most small businesses) try to price my work based on the material costs, my overheads (studio rent etc.), making or manufacturing costs and then add a small profit (for actually living off!). If I decided to discount my work I can’t alter the costs of my materials, overheads etc. That money I’m now not getting is coming straight out of the wage I pay myself to actually make the work. I’m not saying I will never discount anything BUT I don’t like the feeling of being pressured into discounting all my work at my busiest time of year. I rely on the profit I can make now to tide me over quieter times and I can feel happy in the knowledge my pieces are priced fairly – for both the buyer and myself.
Okay after that little rant I want to end things on a high note. With platforms like Instagram, Etsy and Facebook it’s easier than ever to spread the word about all these great wee shops out there. The Just A Card campaign launched earlier this year encouraging people to buy from designers, makers, independent galleries and shops. They reinforce the message that all purchases, however small (even ‘just a card’) are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. They have also recently announced Indie Friday as an alternative to Black Friday. I would encourage you if you are interested at all in shopping small to go check out their website www.justacard.org and follow along with #JACIndieFriday.
Final Final thoughts. Thanks to all of you who have got this far. Blogging is new to me – I have always struggled with the writing side of running a business. I’m much happier surrounded by sketchbooks and tools. I’m planning on trying to write more blogs so constructive criticism is always welcome and please let me know of any of this helped/interested you. You can get in touch with me @awrjewellery on Instagram, twitter or facebook. This year I will be taking part in Discover Our Hidden Christmas in The Hidden Lane (25th November), Etsy Made Local in The Briggait (2nd December) and Tea Green at Kibble Palace ((th December.) To view my Etsy shop click here or follow www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AilsaWhittetRitchie.