Shop close to home, no more malls

Neighbourhood stores have lots to offer and are perfect for the holidays - From Our 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

[size=7][color=DarkRed]I[/color]t may seem like it’s so much easier to flock to the mall to do your holiday shopping, but what if you want to support local, independent business this holiday season? Can shopping local really be as easy as the mall, and if not, what is the value-add?

Eglinton Way Business Improvement Association executive director Carrie Slattery, who says she’s been shopping local for years for her holiday presents, shares some thoughts on why supporting stores on retail streetscapes can be a pleasant and perhaps even easier alternative to the larger shopping centre experience.

[color=DarkOrange]1[/color] [color=DarkRed]Experience[/color]

Shopping local can provide a better, more civilized shopping experience, Slattery says. Many shops offer free gift-wrapping, can do custom orders and some even have delivery services. These store owners also have the flexibility to adjust their hours to better suit their customers. Many of The Eglinton Way BIA merchants, for instance, will be open extended hours for the holiday shopping season, she says.

[color=DarkOrange]2[/color] [color=DarkRed]Niche products[/color]

Often independently-owned stores on local shopping strips have better variety and more niche products you can’t find in the mall, she says, like one of a kind jewellery, coats and jackets, accessories, lingerie and so on. Many also sell a mix of imported and locally produced goods.

[color=DarkOrange]3[/color] [color=DarkRed]Feel-good factor[/color]

A good number of neighbourhood shops are owned by people who live and work in the community, she says, meaning there’s often an investment made in the community. A lot of shop owners support other stores in the area, she says, by buying their supplies from their neighbours. Others support local charities and give back that way.

[color=DarkOrange]4[/color] [color=DarkRed]Village vibe[/color]

Street shopping areas often provide a pretty village-like environment that’s close to restaurants and cafes, she says. Why not relish the complete experience by dining local?

[color=DarkOrange]5 [/color] [color=DarkRed]Persnickety parking?[/color]

True, parking on a busy street where shops are located can sometimes be a hassle. Slattery says most BIAs have websites and will point out convenient locations to park on or near the streetscape, so you can plan your trip, and some may even have special parking initiatives that you can learn about on their respective websites.

Some shops along Eglinton Avenue West, such as The Healthy Butcher on Saturdays, offer convenient valet services, she says.

[color=DarkOrange]6[/color] [color=DarkRed]The real deal[/color]

Sometimes, an independent store may have better deals than the larger chain stores. Slattery says she’s personally found that independent shop owners are more willing to negotiate, say, if the item in question is the last one in stock.

[color=DarkOrange]7[/color] [color=DarkRed]Family fun [/color]

Shopping locally can be a fun and entertaining event for the whole family. Many BIAs put on holiday events with entertainment for kids, Santa photos, special deals, tree-lighting ceremonies, and so on. The Eglinton Way’s Holiday Stroll on Eglinton events are Dec. 11 and 18th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To find a BIA in your area, visit the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas website.

About this article:

By: Kelly Gadzala
Posted: Dec 7 2010 11:55 am
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto