Christmas market alternatives

Ethical Christmas market alternatives

For many craft, art and vintage sellers; November through to January is a very busy time. November particularly is hugely important to anyone who sells in craft stores as people start looking to buy Christmas presents for friends and family. Every year my city usually hosts one of the most popular Christmas markets as well as local floating markets (markets on canal boats) and craft stalls. This November however the entirety of the UK went back into lockdown. Yeah… lockdown but in winter…

Photo credit - Annie Spratt

Okay most of us locals hate our Christmas market. Many of us see it as a load ugly sheds filled with rubbish, slow bus services and packed high streets which are to be avoided at all costs (unless a relative visits or we get curious). The market still is a good activity to do with family and can be a great way to find local crafts amongst the rubbish and well… it's just something to do in the colder winter months when sun bathing isn't on the agenda.

This being said we did all have to go back into lockdown (advise for which can be found on the government website) and November Christmas markets are cancelled. So how do we get all those crafty Christmas presents and support local artists?

Well… there are some very good vintage and craft shops online. One of the disadvantages I think of many of the posher or bigger markets (such as my local market) is that the price for a shed in that market tends to far exceed what all the smaller buisnesses and crafters can actually afford. By supporting a small UK buisness online; you could argueably be helping to better support individuals and emerging artists. Online buisness can be more accessible to smaller buisnesses or individual than a physical shop due to the costs. Unfortunately for the UK; going online to find these gifts is pretty much your only option during lockdown and so I've come up with a list of tips as inspiration…

Top places to find crafty and vintage items for Christmas…

  • Etsy - I find that this is my go to if I'm wanting to buy an interesting newly made item for example wood carved necklaces or a unique item of clothing. There is also some great vintage items on Etsy (Etsy only allows handmade, customised or vintage (or older) items).

  • Ebay - The eBay marketplace is huge! You can find not only vintage but also second hand items there. I find that it attracts less artists than Etsy but it's very good for finding second hand items.

    I personally sell vintage items on eBay and the above image is of some of the items that I've sold… and below is another collection of photos of sold items from my store (just because)…

  • Ethical t-shirt stores - there are now many, many print on demand t-shirt stores avaliable for artists to use to sell their designs. My favorite of these are t-shirt stores are those powered by TeeMill because all their t-shirts are designed to be recycled after use as well as TeePublic. These stores allow people to upload their own designs or in the case of TeeMill use preset designs/ upload their designs (TeeMill is focused more towards bloggers, artists and charities; creating their own stores and doing their own promotional work with their own domain names rather than selling through a big website like TeePublic). When the item is brought it is printed and sent to buyers meaning artists and designers don't need to hold an inventory and waste is reduced as shirts are not created unless someone buys one.

    This option can be great as if you choose a print on demand t-shirt store with a great sustainability and ethical policies. It could allow you to promote and support sustainable fashion by buying these t-shirts above those that do not have these ethical and sustainabile policies and at the same time you support the artists/ designers who created your t-shirts.

  • Social media such as Instagram/ twitter - Yeah I know; social media for shopping? Yes; these are not strictly sites used for shopping however you will find tones of pretty photos to window shop with (especially on Instagram). Many small (and large) buisnesses use social media as a cheap way to advertise their wares.

    This all means that you will be able to find many beautiful images of potential purchases and no matter what selling platform they use you can find their shop! It's the internets version of window shopping. Personally I prefer instagram because my instagram feed is personalised (from me liking very similar videos) so that it almost only shows videos and images of my hobbies (for me that's just an entire feed full of hula hoops and pretty things with very little politics).

Large shopping online stores such as Ebay and Etsy v's smaller stores.

The advantage of going to a larger market place such as eBay or Etsy is that you have a team of people who support both sellers and buyers with their purchase.

The plus side of going directly to someone's website rather than through a larger market place is that they pay less fees so you arguably support them more and if you are lucky some of these savings could be reflected in the price tag… in terms of price; larger online market places do tend to encourage more competition between sellers to offer you better prices.

Smaller stores can also allow people to create a brand so that when you find a good seller that you really like you only have to google their brand and you can buy it again. When people shop at a larger store it can be easy to think in terms of “I got this from this selling site rather than this brand” but then you can always follow sellers on social media and through these larger stores to find more of what they do and it can be easier to discover new brands. If you really love what someone does then you would need to remember the specific shop/ brand to find more from them in the future.

Reasons to buy from small vintage and craft sellers this Chritmas…

  • You empower individuals - helping them to earn a living in their small buisness. You've likely made someone smile from purchasing from a small buisness as opposed to a large one as many very small-time buisnesses are run by individuals. It's great to be able to do this in these tough times.

  • You get something unique - rather than buying mass produced items and if you opt for vintage items then many may not have been mass produced and also similar items may have become damaged making vintage items in good condition rarer as they age. If someone crafts something for you then that item is more likely to be very unique compared to what you could find when buying from a larger buisness.

  • You inspire creation - I have a small group of shops that I keep going back to because they just have that unique style that you don't get from mass produced items. A larger shop is going to be retailing their goods to a mass market but a smaller shop can cater to a smaller audience because they don't need the level of sales that a larger retailer might need. Okay it might usually be a bit more expensive to produce ethical items on a small scale but what you get is more unique to you.

    Right Now I'm a huge fan of The Garden Of Heathens on Etsy. No; I'm not sponsored by them but I do have two of their pirate skirts and I love them! They make them ethically fron recycled Indian saris and many of them are either unique or of limited stock.

  • Environmental and ethical - it can be easier for a smaller buisness to control their environmental and ethical impact when they have fewer products; particularly if they advertise themselves as an ethical/ sustainable company.

  • You can barter - you can't barter in every situation but some sellers on sites like eBay do allow you to do this. I would say through that this is the busiest time of year and that sellers probably wouldn't or shouldn't be accepting very low offers right now as lockdown and high demand has made restocking some items fairly difficult.

    I talk mostly about the sort of items that I personally stock because if I was to buy stock right now; to be able to recieve that stock I'd have to pay a courrier to both wrap and transport all the items to me. Under normal circustances I would be able to do this myself to reduce costs.

I run a little online vintage store called BumbleBee166 on eBay. There I sell beautiful vintage glassware at various price points and yes; I am biased as that is my store but if you are interested in what I do you are always welcome to take a look.

Remember if you are buying online gifts for Christmas; do try and make sure that you consider delivery time, any possible delays that the postal services may be experiencing at this time as well as allow yourself time to buy a replacement should anything go wrong. I say this because sometimes we can't foresee mistakes or issues that might occur. Humans make errors and there may be a bit of a journey before parcels reach you. It's not advisable to leave it too last minute when shopping online.

Well that's all we have time to talk about for today… I hope that this article has been of some use to you. If you see something that I have missed or just love this article then I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. If you love my writing; you can easily subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on medium for more.