Indeed, research from sustainable sharing app Olio found that 65% of people felt they have become more aware of environmental issues as a direct result of coronavirus, leading them to seek out greener gifts. As well as shopping sustainably, three quarters of those polled would prefer to support local retailers and makers this year, as opposed to large online retailers, such as Amazon.
Of course, with the best will in the world, sometimes it comes down to price and convenience. “If people have time to plan and shop early, they’ll do their research and shop small and local,” believes Selvey. “But if delivery time or price is an issue, Amazon is going to trade well.”
However, as Selvey points out, Amazon as a platform also supports and hosts smaller businesses. Although an independent store might take more of the purchase price if you buy direct, buying on Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not supporting an independent.
Tech-driven customer service
Olio’s survey was conducted to launch Made, a new marketplace on its app, that allows locals to sell handmade crafts and home-made food, commission-free, in their neighbouring community. And with people unable to visit shops in person, these technological developments could be key to the success of small businesses – not only helping them with logistics but also with customer service.
For many local businesses, in-store customer service was their USP. According to Patrice Lusth from Making Waves, an agency in Sweden that helps brands drive engagement, just because customers can’t see you in person doesn’t mean you can’t maintain that relationship via social media.
“Your own unique brand experience and personal relationship with your consumers is dynamite when taking on the competition in large price pressuring marketplaces,” she says. “The transparency of social commerce drives engagement when customers get ‘behind the scenes’ access to the people behind a design or product.”
Small businesses that care
It’s certainly an approach that has worked for Melanie Porter. She started selling her handcrafted homewares in 2007. And in 2012 she began showcasing her work on Instagram.
“Normally I’d be doing local fairs and trade fairs for Christmas,” Porter says. “But because they’re not an option, I’m spending more time on social media talking directly to customers, and being part of a really supportive community where everyone is driving customers to each others’ brands.”
She points out that the drive to shop small isn’t just about individuals benefiting. For Black Friday, Porter donated 10% of all sales to her local food bank, and this ‘give as you give’ initiative is widespread.
Maleka Dattu is the founder and director of skincare brand Merumaya. She recently announced that for every melting cleansing balm (£20) sold on her website in December, £10 would be split between Beauty Banks, a charity that helps people who can’t afford hygiene products, and Beauty Backed, a charity that financially supports beauty professionals.
“Many women were happily going along earning their salaries and supporting their families and bam, they found themselves visiting food banks,” Dattu explains. “Although I face problems in my own life, they do not compare, so I feel it is incumbent upon me to do what I can to help.”
Less stuff, more experiences
And in a year where we’ve become conscious of feeling overwhelmed by how much stuff we’re living with – an idea popularised by the term ‘stuffocation’ – gifts that don’t take up space are set to be popular. At the top end that means tickets to events that we’ve missed attending this year.
Tim Badham, CEO of high-end lifestyle management and concierge company Inner Place, says many more people are asking about experiences as gifts, such as tickets to Wimbledon, Ascot, the Brits and the Baftas.