We’re on the cusp of the holiday season where we might dreamily fantasize about Norman Rockwell-esque snowflakes, frosty windowpanes, twinkling lights, and smiles. Once we’re actually into the intensity of the season, however, it tends to take on a different cast and becomes more a scene of frustration, scowls, congested parking garages, and futile searches for salesclerks who know their stock.
But we can reclaim some of the iconic character and trapping
s of the season and perhaps adjust our mindset and approach to minimize the stress. Maybe this holiday season can actually be fun!
Alexandrians have a much better backdrop for reclaiming the charm of traditional holiday shopping than most of our neighboring jurisdictions. Did you know, for instance, that the developers of the “town center” concept – such as Reston Town Center – actually visited Old Town Alexandria to carefully measure and mimic the scale and character of our historic shopping quarter? And Del Ray offers the ambiance of a classic American main street with its art deco-influenced neighborhood shopping district.
These sought-after shopping venues allow us to maximize our holiday enjoyment. Rather than swimming upstream through crowds in nondescript shopping caverns, plan an outing with friends that includes savoring the architecture and neighborhood character. Schedule breaks for lunch or refreshments, and imagine how many generations have shopped and dined on those same sidewalks.
Your store experience is likely to be distinct, too, when you shop in genuine neighborhoods rather than in large malls or contrived town centers. In small stores, you’re more likely to be greeted when you enter, and you’ll find that the sales staff know its stock, is able to field a variety of questions about it, and will be glad to search for what you need. Your gift purchases in these smaller stores are also more likely to be unique finds, and not something your recipients will see everywhere.
On top of the charm and ambiance provided by shopping outings and independent merchants, think about the constructive impact of shopping small. National studies document the multiplier effects of supporting independent retailers vs. national chains. The calculation is that each dollar spent at a locally-owned business returns twice the amount of money to the local economy as a dollar spent at a chain.
Need more incentives to shop small and local? Our colleagues at the Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association and the shop owners have combined efforts to make the holiday season especially attractive. Alexandria is THE Shop Small headquarters of the DC region. Shoppers will be rewarded for their “shop local” loyalty. Starting November 29th, shoppers can get a free Rebecca Minkoff designer “Shop Small” canvass tote bag when they bring two receipts from local Alexandria shops to the Alexandria Visitors Center at 221 King St. Visit www.VisitAlexandriaVA/shopsmall for more information.
You owe it to yourself to make this season a more rewarding shopping experience. Happy holidays!
This article first appeared in the Alexandria Times on November 26, 2014.