Saturday, November 16, 2013

Shopping Small, the David and Goliath Battle of the Holidays

The Shop Small movement began a few years ago.  All over the ‘Net Shop Small logos began popping up along with websites encouraging folks to buy from local shops and independent vendors during the holidays (and beyond) instead of supporting chain, “big box” stores. 
As an independent artist, I support this wholeheartedly (Shop Small Saturday is Nov 30), but I have to say that in the contest between independent vendors and big box, we independents are getting our asses whipped.
Holiday shopping has become a professional sport.  Multi-million dollar budgets dedicated to promoting chain stores that shower the nation with constant ads featuring giddy holiday shoppers laden with bulging bags bearing their logo is—shall we say—difficult to compete with.  News outlets started talking about Black Friday well before Halloween.
Black Friday—oh, how I hate you.  I would rather chew off my own arm and beat myself over the head with it than join the sea of chaos that is Black Friday.  Yet, I know people (some in my own family) that prepare for Black Friday with military precision.  Elaborate plans and schedules are devised.  Teams of shoppers are given specific destinations and specific items to acquire.  Track suits are washed, fluffed and set beside comfy sneakers the day before.  This is shopping WAR, people.
Doesn't this look like FUN?!?!?
Blarf.  I mean, seriously, BLARF.  How are we little craftspeople supposed to compete with mega-malls and SUPERSAVINGSLAYAWAYDEALOFTHECENTURYGOTTAGETITNOW?  We are the hippies sticking handmade flowers in the gun barrels of Wal-Mart.
How do we get our voices heard and our shops noticed?  Social media is our go-to virtual billboard, and we have to use it wisely and consistently.  I like working in groups, like Love My Art Jewelry, that have a steady following and membership.  We need to encourage and support fellow artists, cross post and share links.  I strongly encourage every member of this group, and every person that reads these posts to take it one step further, and share links to your favorite small shops and independent artists on your own personal pages.  When asked “What do you want for Christmas?” please answer, “Something handmade!” and then give links to artists and local shops.  We can’t do this alone and so appreciate any support that can be thrown our way.
Also, and this is just my opinion, I don’t believe independent artists and small shops should feel obligated to buy into the I HAVE TO HAVE A SALE stuff associated with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  This may be the carrot that attracts shoppers to the mega-stores that can afford to reduce the prices on mass produced goods purchased in bulk and marked up 300% in the first place.  That discount was built in from the beginning.  Individual artists creating one of a kind works should not feel obligated to discount their work to meet some arbitrary shopping date on a national shopping calendar.  I guess I am just repulsed by the near hysteria associated with this time of year with regards to shopping.  Maybe I'm naïve, but I want folks to buy my work because they love it and want it, not because it's on sale the day after Thanksgiving.  Yes, I am naïve....sigh.  For all of you hard working artist that are planning Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I applaud you and hope your clients understand that this is a sacrifice for you all, not a given. 
I’d like to see the message presented by the Shop Small movement remain true.  Support local shops and independent artists because what you are getting is BETTER than anything you could ever find in a mall or big box store.  When you buy local and shop small, you support not only the individual, but the COMMUNITY.  Our work is WORTH THE FULL PRICE…PERIOD.  So, when a small shop or independent artist does offer discounts and sales to entice you to buy, know that this is coming at a much larger cost to them than you probably realize--seriously.
Imagine, work created by REAL HUMAN HANDS!!  Now, that's a gift.
I hope many of you refrain from diving into the sea of chaos that is Black Friday.  I hope you stay home and have another turkey sandwich.  Enjoy the groove you have dug into the couch and revel in the tryptophan high with your family.  Then visit your local arts district and come home with something truly magical and original, without the slightest trace of a “Made in China” sticker anywhere.  You have no idea how great the power of the psychic ripples you will create from one purchase supporting an independent artist.   That purchase will help ensure small vendors like us can continue to create, continue to support ourselves and our families.  When you buy from us you sort of become a member of our extended family, and we need, love and appreciate you.
I doubt Wal-Mart can say the same.
I’ve listed below some of my favorite independent shops and vendors that I go to for holiday gifts.  Many are food related—who doesn’t love artisan or homemade treats?  Check them out, perfect for everyone on your list, INCLUDING YOU.  All ship nationwide based on availability.
Mincing Mockingbird --Stunning prints, books, cards and paintings of birds and more with hilarious and thought provoking titles.  By artists Matt Adrian and Kim Bagwill.
Tiny Confessions – Wonderful sketches of pets and animals complete with deep thoughts and true confessions, by artist Christopher Rozzi.
Das Foods – Artisan handmade caramels and more that will BLOW YOUR MIND!  Pistachio ginger!!!!
Pascale’s Artisan Jams and Preserves – I am addicted to the Apricot Lavender, but the entire line is DELICIOUS and handmade.
Glarus Chocolates – OMG, that’s all you need to know.
Farmhouse Tomatoes — Heirloom tomatoes grown in Lake Worth, Florida.  By the case, SPECTACULAR!
Rare Species Conservatory Foundation — A non-profit wildlife organization close to my heart.  A donation in a loved one’s name will support vital wildlife conservation programs around the globe.
Of course, for handmade jewelry, look no further than this blog page for links to INCREDIBLE ARTISTS!!!
Thanks, and I wish everyone a blessed and peaceful holiday season.


Keith@ Vintage Crab Jewelry and Crafts said...

I am standing right now clapping and, here!!!

stacilouise said...

This was pretty amazing Karen. I really admire your sincere, funny and honest passion that comes through in your writing. You have inspired me to share further on my own blog!

Unknown said...

I think it's called Black Friday because it spreads a virulent retail rash that HAS to be scratched, only to be eased by thinking you are getting something for less.......Throw a little good old American extreme competition into it and it becomes irresistible to some.Our lovely, local downtown stores are not only encouraging us to shop small on Satudy the 30th. They are donating up to 15% of their profits to local charities. That makes me feel like Christmas!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Great post!
In my area (Northern Indiana) there IS a big movement to promote local stores and artists. Special promos for the downtown areas such as 1st Friday, Second Saturday etc. Also, I've seen and read that towns are promoting their downtown area as an artist haven with rent friendly small shops and old stores being converted to smaller apartment/studios for artist. This is happening in South Bend and Michigan City. I wonder if this is a trend across the country. We can only hope. Its much more fun to visit the boutiques than to shop at the Dollar Store.

Erika said...

I pretty much totally avoid stores during Black Friday weekend. I can't imagine anything more dreadful! Thanks for the links. One small company I love is Byler's Relish in PA. They make the best relishes!

Almost Precious said...

Wonderful post, wonderfully written.
Hope this grass roots movement continues to catch on. It is about time that we take back the Holidays from the mega, big-box, giants like Wal-Mart.
As for myself, I have never participated in the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and I never will succumb to that lunacy.

scorpio3200 said...

Hello all, my wife is a handmade artist that participates in the various blog hops. As her husband I can not believe the nerve of people asking for deals from her on her one of a kind items. She puts here heart and soul into her creations, watching her create jewelry out of beads wire and love is just incredible!
I worked in retail for 20 years and have seen the disputing and vile attitudes of people during Black Fridays, as employees we would watch soccer mom's degrade, insult, and even attack other shoppers over sales. Truly discuting behavior. Karen I love your post and will spread it across my Facebook and other accounts. Thank you for expressing the view of so many artists!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this! I refuse to play the Black Friday game. I'm actually putting my Etsy shop on vacation during Black Friday madness, because thankfully, I've lined up venues that appreciate handmade.
I really do believe that if handmade artists stick together, we can shift some of the focus from easy, cheap "stuff" back to the beauty we create.

baymoondesign said...

I totally agree! I try whenever possible to leave my hard earned money in my community. I don't leave my house owner Thanksgiving weekend. Why would I? My family is there and that is what matters.

Patti Vanderbloemen said...

Beautifully written post - I avoid ALL retail and big box stores not only on Black Friday, but the entire Holiday Season. The frenzy takes away the intended spirit of the holiday.

Kathleen Lange Klik said...

Beautifully written post. I think there are a number of people in the communities that support independent shops/buy handmade but not as many as we would like. A good place to start is by giving a non-artist a handmade gift. This will introduce them to the beauty and craftsmanship that only handmade offers. Then, perhaps their gift will inspire them to buy handmade gifts. This year I have decided to create as many gifts as possible because a) I scaled back my jewelry/photography work to care for my newborn son and don't have the funds that I did last year. b) I want to teach him that Christmas is about giving from the heart rather than the commercialism of spending money on a mass produced item. c) Creating handmade items is fun!

With that said, I also enjoy and appreciate artisans having Black Friday sales such as free shipping or a percentage off. They aren't having the "crazy 50% off with an additional percentage off" sales that big box stores do. They offer realistic sales that should still bring in a profit for them. It is a nice way to let customers know they appreciate them buying handmade. It also encourages people to buy handmade during that weekend as lets face it, the majority of people shopping that weekend are looking for sales. Last year I had fun shopping online at my favorite artisan shops who were having Black Friday weekend sales. I found a cozy place to sit and perused my favorite artisan bead shop pages. Perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening at home!

I do go out on Black Friday morning as well but only to craft stores. They have great sales without the crazy lines and crowds. A good way to stock up on supplies for my passion of creating!

kathyinozarks said...

I am stopping by from Lisa's page-great idea I will post the link on my page too-
wow I am your 1000th follower

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