October - November - December 2014

Here We Go Again... It's Holiday Shopping Season! (p.26)

By Christie Burris

Did you know that 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping in October? The organized shoppers, that is. According to Tiffany Monhollon of Reach Local Blog, there are several kinds of shoppers and their types are much more distinguishable during the holiday shopping season. Which one are you?

"I want to see, taste, touch, and feel my shopping experience." This type of shopper:
– Enjoys the full holiday shopping experience that delights the senses;
– Does online research to find which local stores carry products they want;
– Prefers shopping in-store to purchasing items they can't see or test online;
– Appreciates thoughtful, helpful customer service.

I would add that this shopper also feels no shame in treating herself this time of year. In what has come to be called the "one for me, one for you," trend, many retail stores are catering to this type of shopper during the holidays.

Ninety percent of U.S. retail sales are projected to occur in brick-and-mortar stores. For every dollar spent in your community – whether you shop at a chain department store, discount, or the shop on Main Street – you are helping your local economy. Further, small retailers account for 25% of the nation's businesses.

"I want to know my shopping makes a difference." This shopper:
– Supports causes, charities, and community groups;
– Chooses stores supporting charities through proceeds or matching gifts;
– Enjoys giving gifts that make a lasting impact;
– Is thoughtful and intentional in her shopping and purchases.

Charity giving is usually highest at the end of the year, with some organizations reporting 30% of their annual gifts being given in December. In Wake County and the surrounding area, there are numerous charities that would benefit from your gift. Some of these include the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC, the Boys and Girls Club of Wake County, Habitat for Humanity, The Healing Place, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

"I research and find gift inspiration online and purchase items without leaving home." This shopper:
– Researches online to find the best gift ideas, prices, and availability;
– Enjoys the ease and convenience of online shopping;
– Shops high-volume days like Cyber Monday;
– Turns to sites like Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram for gift ideas and inspiration.

This year, nearly half of consumers plan to buy some portion of their holiday gifts online. While they may support their local retailers, these time-starved shoppers simply prefer the ease of shopping from their laptops, desktops, or mobile devices. Because of this trend, more and more brick-and-mortar retailers are optimizing or creating websites for ecommerce, offering site-to-store, free shipping, or even a personal shopper, so you never have to leave your home. Be sure to ask your favorite neighborhood retailers if they offer any of these services to make your holiday shopping easier.

"Adding my own touch is an important holiday tradition for me." This type of shopper:
– Takes on DIY projects to prepare for holidays, like home improvements, cooking, and creating gifts or décor;
– Seeks DIY inspiration from sites like Pinterest and Instagram;
– Seasonally purchases supplies and help to complete DIY projects;
– May turn to services to complete some tasks or purchase handmade goods.

Thirty-one percent of consumers plan to spend more on home improvements, remodeling, landscaping, and décor than they did this time last year. There's fun to be had when shopping at your local hardware store or nursery during the holidays. A great example is Seaboard Ace Hardware off of Peace Street at Seaboard Station. You don't need to go to the mall to visit with Santa – he's been showing up regularly every year since they opened. Check their Facebook page for this year's date.

"Handmade or local purchases are a source of pride for me." Last but not least, this shopper:
– Will pay a premium for locally-made or hand-crafted goods, food, and services;
– Enjoys getting to know or meeting the artisan, owner, or creator of purchases;
– Shops both in person and online for unique items, experiences, and services;
– Likes discovering and promoting new artisans and local businesses;
– Is often seen as a tastemaker or influencer in the community;
– Turns to sites like Etsy for gift ideas or purchases.

Wake County is home to myriad local artisans and craftsmen, and during the holidays, there are a number of local fairs where these gifts can be purchased.

The 2014 holiday season is shorter than most years, with only 26 days existing between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. So now that you know what kind of shopper you are, it's time to begin thinking about the "it" gifts this season.

I recently spoke with Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of RetailMinded and co-founder of the Independent Retail Conference, to find out what her predictions are for the best gifts this season.

"At the recent ASD Las Vegas show (a consumer-goods trade show), I discovered a great new item that I believe will be a huge hit with kids, tweens, and even teenagers and older. The Dotz Company is a great find that is creative, interactive, and practical," she said. Dotz are colorful, interconnecting silicone bricks that encourage creativity and imagination (

"Accessories are always in style, because even if one's budget goes up or down, accessories can be obtained at any price point in the fashion category. In addition, accessories for things like iPads and iPhones are becoming increasingly popular right now. I saw a tremendous range of these and think they will definitely be among the gift-giving trends this season," she continued. 

This year, she added, "Customers should be on the lookout for gifts that also promote good causes. So many items are being attached to charities of many kinds – whether supporting kids with cancer, poverty stricken countries, abused animals, or any other cause that is needed to give both awareness and money to. One example of this is Freedom Bar ( Another is Jewelry for a Cause

Another big trend she is seeing for this upcoming holiday season is anything personalized – whether sticker books for kids, glasses sketched with initials, or clothing embroidered with monograms, personalizing gifts is a big deal this year. "There are so many great options for hostess gifts, but I personally loved the monogrammed towels, glasses, and cheeseboards I saw at the ASD show. Their personalized touch shows that you have taken the time to find something uniquely for them, yet still screams 'party' or 'host,'" she said.

With all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, take time to have fun, enjoy your family and friends, and reflect on what matters most. And, as always, happy shopping!

Christie Burris is the director of communications for the NC Retail Merchants Association. To learn more about the NC Retail Merchants Association, visit Did you know that retailers hire more finance employees than Wall Street, more engineers than Silicon Valley, and a whole lot of creative minds like photographers, web designers, marketers, and writers? Think You Know Retail? Think Again. For more information, visit or



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