This will be a make-or-break year for small businesses across Canada. Between lockdowns, store-opening restrictions and widespread income loss among the general population, independent business owners are struggling to meet their overheads and pay rent.
The last three months of the year are when most retailers make more than 40 per cent of their annual revenue, explained Nathalie-Roze Fischer, a creative small businesses coach and eco-accessories designer from Toronto, in an interview with HuffPost Canada. “A lockdown in November is a cruelly timed disaster,” she added.
If you’re in a position to spend this season, shopping locally is the most effective way to support indie businesses.” Buy your gifts, essentials and treats for yourself at your favourite places and also be open to exploring new options in your area,” said Fischer.
“If there’s a cool shop you’ve been meaning to visit or a restaurant you want to try, this is your moment ― do it now or you might see their windows papered over in the new year. It’s really that dire.”
Even if you’re on a tight budget this year and have fully or partially opted out of gift giving, you can still do your part to support local businesses. “We can all help to signal boost local businesses, said Fischer. That might mean sharing and liking their pages on social media, leaving positive reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google and Facebook, and sending private messages to store owners to let them know you’re rooting for them in these challenging times.
For in-person services you can’t use right now, such as hair or nail salons, buy products or gift cards to help make up for their losses under COVID-19 restrictions.
And if you can, buy wine and treats for the holiday table ― or even a catered holiday meal ― from a local restaurant or bar you love. Gift cards for your favourite independent local restaurants are a good choice too.
As well, if you know friends or family want to buy things for you, make a list of items from local stores or independent online vendors you love, and share the link or phone number with them.
Here’s our national guide to buying local. It’s not exhaustive, so to recommend a resource, contact us and we’ll update the guide:
ShopLocalCanada.ca is a website that offers curated gift guides and sales alerts for small businesses. They also have a discount codes section for bargain hunters. Their blog highlights the best of all offerings by theme and by region.
At giftideas.ca, you can find “hand-picked gift ideas from the best online shops in Canada.” The search tools allow you to shop by budget, recipient and personality trait.
Rally for Restaurants is a Canadian website where you can buy gift cards for loved ones to use at local restaurants, for take-out or to give to the restaurant owners and staff now, to help keep them afloat, until you can dine there safely. Stella Artois will top up every order of a gift card for $25 or $50 with $10, to add some extra seasonal joy.
Etsy is a global online marketplace for independent creators. They have everything imaginable on the site, from art prints to hand-stitched accessories to customized gifts. Using the search filters allows you to support local. To find national vendors, scroll down to the “Shop Location” filter, then check “Canada.” Or for local options, check “Custom,” then type in your town, city or province.
Shop at the Nooks, an online marketplace of curated made-in-Canada crafted items, which can be shipped all across the country. There is an app too, and there are also three brick-and-mortar stores, in Port Hope, Oshawa, and Kingston, On., as well as one in Vancouver.
The Handmade Market is an online store selling products created by 220 Canadian makers, artists and artisans. Sections include Green Living, Ceramics and Bath & Body.
And by region, here are more guides to inspire your local holiday shopping:
Northern Ontario Travel put out the Essential Northern Ontario Holiday Gift Guide 2020 to showcase local businesses. They’ve got handmade rainbow soaps, earrings created by an Anishinaabe artist and upcycled clothing, such as the sweater below, made by Thunder Bay woman-owned enterprise Ungalli Clothing Co.
The Windsor-Essex 2020 Holiday Gift Guide celebrates makers and vendors from the most southerly region of the province. As well as having locally made gifts for everyone from your significant other to your coworkers (remember them?) to your kids, they have a whole section on buyable experiences, such as wine tours on bikes and a charcuterie class.
Highlighting local artwork for every budget, the Holiday Gift Ideas from Prince Edward County guide also has extensive craft beer, spirits and wine offerings ― perfect for the holiday table and quality bubble time.
Nishe Shop is a Toronto indie brick-and-mortar stores guide, conveniently organized by neighbourhood. The “Not-Amazon” guide to local businesses includes everything from vintage to home decor to book and clothing stores in Toronto (note: and also Halifax, Nova Scotia).
And Ottawa residents will find gift suggestions for their city in the annual Ottawa Life Holiday gift guide, which includes books by Ottawa authors and face masks designed by local artist Darlene Kulig, as well as handmade gifts galore, from the Ottawa Artisans Directory.
Economusées points gift buyers towards Quebec-based artisans by region, so you can stock up for the holidays on everything from chocolate made in a monastery to cheese made on the Magdelene Islands to cold-press handmade soaps.
More than 80 independent Quebec businesses are spotlighted in Idée Cadeau Québec’s Virtual Christmas Market. They also have a curated Children’s Corner Gift Guide with adorable gifts such as this handmade swing set, this Mandala colouring tablecloth (parents love it too), and these DIY candle-making kits for kids.
Montreal’s beloved Souk Mtl market has gone online for its 17th edition. From its inception, it has been the holiday market to pick up one-of-a-kind and handmade items, such as the geometric light shade below from Laboratoire Textile.
Edmontonians can find the perfect gift this year at the Edmonton Made website, which showcases locally based businesses and distinctive Edmonton products. Of note: a section dedicated to Indigenous artists, artisans and entrepreneurs.
Be Local YYC is an extensive guide to Calgary’s small business offerings. Shop for gifts such as Alberta beeswax pillar candles, hand-burned illustrated chopping boards or this delightful 5-pack of Xmas Dogs, seasonal greetings cards, created in watercolours, by Maya Corona Art and Design.
Daily Hive created this Made-in-Calgary Gift Guide to encourage Calgarians to shop local and artisanal. Small-batch room scents, macrame wall hangings and these adorable incense-burning log cabins from Needle and Pine are among the top 2020 picks.
All orders over $50 on the Locals WPG are delivered free within Winnipeg. As well as being able to find high-quality products from dozens of Winnipeg indie businesses, you can spend $30 on the Locals gift box which includes goodies such as hot chocolate and a tote bag, as well as a $10 gift card for the Locals.
To find local businesses to support in the southeastern region of the province consult the Manitoba Southeast Commerce 2020 Shop Local Holiday Guide. As well as suggesting local businesses to shop at for traditional gifts and flowers, they incude companies offering experiences such as paddleboard tours.
Created by Winnipeg restauranteur Obby Kahn, Good Local is a directory of Manitoba businesses, selling everything from apparel to groceries to made-in-Manitoba items, like the rose petal jam, by Flour and Flower, below.
If you’re based in Vancouver or Victoria, head to We Are Local, for the best of local businesses. Pick up lingerie or jewellery in Vancouver boutique Devil May Wear; find the work of artists within 100 miles of Vancouver at Bird on a Wire; and find the comfiest jumpsuits imaginable at Victoria’s Leka Design.
Check out the Vancouver Pride Society 2020 Holiday Gift Directory, if you want to buy local, handmade and made-in-Canada goods, while also supporting LGBTQAI2S+- and BIPOC-owned businesses in Vancouver. It’s not too late to gift a loved one a holiday card photoshoot with Kaitlin Day Photography, or to pick up the perfect patch at Lucky Little Queer (see below).
At the online marketplace Shop Local Sask, representing all of Saskatchewan, you can stock up on food and drink gifts, like this Raving Loon spice blends or this DIY unicorn cupcake kit. Prairie Living T-shirts, from Regina store Flat Clothing, make an excellent gift for your favourite homebody.
To put your holiday dollars into the pockets of Saskatoon sellers, check out My Saskatoon, which as shop local, eat local and support local sections, so you’ve got all your gifts, holiday foods and seasonal services covered.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Shoppers can find handmade goods on the Crafts of Character website or the popular Made in Newfoundland Facebook group. And the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador has both a brick-and-mortar store and an online shopping site. Quidi Village Plantation is an excellent shopping destination, in St John’s, where artisans in residence produce high-quality contemporary items using traditional crafting processes.
Artisans from across the Maritimes are represented at The Nova Scotia Makers Market, an online store for one-of-a-kind goods. Find everything from delightfully irregular ceramic buttons to patchwork-style corner bookmarks to handwoven and hand-dyed scarves in the colours of the ocean.
If you live in Halifax, check out the “Not-Amazon” guide to local businesses. This resource is constantly being updated and includes everything from vintage to home decor to book and clothing stores. (Note: there’s a Toronto section too.)
Buy Local NB was created with environmental objectives in mind, to help people in New Brunswick reduce their carbon footprint. It includes a map and directory of local food and drink, crafts, body products, Christmas tree and home and garden independent stores.
Offering free delivery across Prince Edward Island, Shop PEI is a one-stop online marketplace for the holidays. Shop the “Christmas and holidays” section for unique gifts such as lip balms from Jaxon Naturals, which come in seasonal flavours such as candy cane (pictured below), egg nog, gingerbread and, um, chicken bone.
The Northern Territories
Buy Local Whitehorse is a Facebook page, created to showcase awesome Whitehorse retailers and services, such as Free Pour Jenny’s, a company that makes small-batch bitters, tonic syrups and shrubs from foraged Yukon ingredients. The Fireweed Community Market 12 Days of Christmas event, from December 9 to 22, will have COVID-19 measures in place so you can safely shop for handcrafted Yukon items. There’s also an online platform, selling delicious stuff like roasted coffee beans (check out their Northern Nights decaf) and sweet-smelling stuff like mini handmade soaps in a jar.
The Buy North holiday guide showcases small businesses in the Northwest Territories. Luxe lovers can treat someone special to 24-karat-gold infused soap or Aurora Maple Gold ― a bottle of organic maple syrup from New Brunswick flecked with gold from Yellowknife ― both from YK Gold and Silver.
ShopNu aims to garner support for Nunavut’s artists and entrepreneurs. Find Inuit Art, beer from Nunavut’s only brewery, and crafted products, such as this beautiful polar bear (Nanuq) packing doll, from Ivalu.
Wherever you are, shop local. It matters this year more than ever. Share links with us to your favourite local businesses and Canadian holiday gift guides, in the comments below.
See perfectly formed Christmas bauble icicles in the video below: