Here's how to wrap sustainability, community and meaning all into one package with thoughtful vintage gifts
Holiday shopping can be a stressful time: hunting for the perfect gift, at the perfect price, while the weather turns, the lines lengthen, and the same Christmas song seems to follow you around on repeat from one fluorescent-lit box store to the next.
Fold in competitive shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it’s enough to make one’s inner Grinch emerge.
But let’s paint a different picture: you’re shopping at your local vintage store. There’s a handmade candle burning behind the counter and an old vinyl crackles over the speakers.
You might be spending a little bit more on the gifts you’re buying, but you’re focused on quality, not quantity.
The shop owner is helping you find the perfect gifts: a cozy, worn-in vintage leather jacket for your beloved and a set of vintage Pyrex for the baker in your life. And maybe you need to snag those brass candlestick holders for your holiday table, too.
You walk out with your purchases, satisfied knowing you supported your neighbours instead of a big-box retailer, and feeling good about shopping sustainably and helping to repurpose existing goods instead of contributing to the waste involved in buying new.
With the holiday shopping season upon us, sustainability, affordability and shopping local are more important to consumers than ever. One way to wrap all those things into one package you can fit under the tree? Shop your local vintage shops, dealers and online sellers.
This year, a holiday shopping survey report by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and Leger shows that shopping local is important to 82 per cent of Canadians, up from 74 per cent last year.
With good reason: the importance of shopping local hit home during the COVID-19 pandemic, when global supply chains struggled to catch up after disruptions caused by lockdowns. Plus, as the cost of living continues to cause financial headaches for many Canadian families, shopping locally is an essential part of stimulating economic growth.
When you shop local, your money goes further, and does more for your local community and economy.
As Valérie Roy, director of sales and recruitment at the One of a Kind Show (OOAK) in Toronto told the CBC last year, $63 of every $100 you spend at your local shops stays in your own community, compared to only $14 of that same $100 you might spend at a big-box store.
You can also think of it on a more human level. When you shop locally, you’re supporting your neighbours’ business instead of a faceless global corporation.
And you might make a friend along the way. Small businesses, especially vintage ones, are often born of passion, and business owners are often the person you’re directly engaging with.
Each purchase is meaningful and enables someone to continue doing what they love — while you get the benefit of face-to-face expertise and recommendations.
Come holiday season, affordability is a priority; Canadians are still feeling the pinch of inflation. A 2022 future consumer index from EY Canada reported that holiday spending intentions were down as a result of cost-of-living and economic concerns following the pandemic.
While the Retail Council of Canada’s 2023 report shows the average Canadian household plans to spend $100 more on the holidays this year than they did last year ($898 over last year’s $782), more people are also looking out for a bargain than they were in 2022.
According to the RCC, more than 40 per cent of Canadian consumers intended to shop on Black Friday — up from 28 per cent who said they would in 2022. The survey recorded similar intentions in shopper’s intentions for events like Cyber Monday (up to 37 per cent from 21 per cent in 2022) and Boxing Day (32 per cent, a jump up from 18 per cent in 2022).
The EY Canada report indicates that sustainability is still top of mind for many shoppers. The call of the box stores can be hard to resist, and small businesses, including independent resellers, have a difficult time competing with them on price. (This happens to be part of the big-biz business model — undercut the mom-and-pops and win market share).
One way we could probably all afford to be a little more sustainable during the holiday season is to buy fewer gifts — but to make the ones you do buy count.
One of the best things about vintage shopping is the unique, timeless, hard-to-find quality of many of the items.
If you’re on the hunt for something specific to make the perfect gift — maybe a rare vintage band tee, or a bowl to replace the one you broke — most sellers are happy to help you find it themselves, or can direct you to someone else who can.
The best way to connect with your local sellers is at their shops or at a market, and many local resellers are online (just be sure to give them enough time to shop your item in advance of the holidays).
Local vintage sellers are the keepers of the items you just can’t get at the big-box stores. Often, they have deep ties to the communities they work in, and chances are they’ve sourced some memorabilia that’s local to your city or town, like a lithograph of the old city hall where someone you love recently got married, or gear from the defunct sports team your dad used to cheer for. Nostalgia and memories are a vintage seller’s expertise.
Not sure what you’re looking for? Vintage sellers can help with that, too, with recommendations steeped in knowledge. When your loved one opens their gift, you’ll be able to pass all that info along. And they’ll know just how much thought went into it.
Chelsea Nash is a freelance writer, journalist and owner of Curious Times Vintage.
This article originally appeared in the digital edition of our 2023 Vintage Gift Guide.