OKANAGAN - It’s already well known that online shopping has taken over a large piece of the Christmas retail pie, but that doesn’t mean people are giving up on buying local to fill the stockings this Christmas.
You don’t have to go out to a farmer’s market or holiday craft fair to buy local, you can do it from home — in your pyjamas if you want to. You’ve probably seen Facebook pages for local crafters popping up as well as groups for handmade and home-based businesses. The Facebook pages and websites are usually not much different from online catalogues, and most will ship orders.
Vendors say online shopping has become a big part of their holiday sales, and the buyers are often local, just like the makers. Kelowna’s Sabina Majkrzak of GreenBean ReLoved says not everyone wants to stand in line-ups at crowded malls, or has time to visit local craft fairs over the hectic holiday season.
“(Ordering online) is a great alternative, an easy alternative,” she says. “It’s about being accessible and flexible.”
Majkrzak ships orders across Canada, but says it’s becoming more common for her to send products across town as well. You’ll still find her products in local stores and at the Okanagan’s major craft fairs, but her website and Facebook page are the backbone of the business.
“I like having the variety,” she says. “I like the fairs because people can try things on, and often people like meeting the person who makes it. Often I’ll hear people say, ‘I saw you online, it’s nice to meet you in person.’”
The key, she says, is giving consumers the options and flexibility they need to buy the products they want.
“You’re getting one of a kind items while supporting and growing your community,” she says. “And I don’t think they (shoppers) have to look far — there’s so many pages popping up. You could definitely do all your Christmas shopping locally.”
Armstrong vendor Brandy Rempel of Soapernova has seen a huge increase in online sales, particularly over the past year.
“I’ve done online the past two years, this is the first year it’s really taken off. It’s probably increased by 50 per cent in the last couple of months,” she says.
Orders range from locals to out of province shoppers, and everyone likes being able to see pictures and read descriptions of the products on her website, she says.
“They use it as an online catalogue so to speak,” she says. “People say ‘buyer beware’, but if you have a clear description and ingredient list, people feel so much better. It’s way more convenient. We all have such busy lives.”
Rempel will often meet up with local buyers to drop off their orders, and has even gift-wrapped and shipped products for people — a great option if you have to mail presents anyway.
“It’s all about choices. Being a local business, you’re able to give that option. It doesn’t have to be so cookie cutter — you can work with your consumer,” she says.
With apps and order forms, people can even do their local, online Christmas shopping while in line at the bank, or without leaving the house.
“And everyone you’re supporting is a neighbour,” Rempel says.
Another Okanagan-based vendor, Fern Vanderclock relies heavily on online sales for her jewelry business, Just One Daisy.
“I’m kind of staying away from craft fairs,” she says. “With online, I haven’t felt the need to.”
Instead of sitting for hours at a craft fair table, which you have to pay for, she conducts most of her business through online sales and loves it. Shipping is cheap — less than if you were to order from outside the country she points out — and items arrive within a few days. Much of her work is custom made, and today’s digital world makes it easy to communicate with consumers about what they want.
“It’s really neat, I get a personal relationship with that person. It’s not like you’ve never met this person, you’ve talked on the phone or texted. It’s been really rewarding,” she says. “You can still get really personal with online shopping.”
If you’re looking for local vendors, start by checking out Facebook groups like Vernon and Area Online Farmers Market, Okanagan Artisans and Crafters, and HOME-MADE in the Okanagan. There’s no shortage of talent in the area, and you don’t even have to leave your house to find it.
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