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Shop wise, shop local this year

December 4th, 2021 5:10 PM

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THIS coming Wednesday is December 8th – the traditional pre-Christmas shopping day.

These days, many people cannot remember how it became such an important day for shopping but, like many modern seasonal traditions, it had its origins in religion. This was the day when many schools would close for the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It allowed people a chance to go into the big towns and cities to tick the big items off their Christmas shopping lists, like toys, the ‘Christmas outfit’, gifts needing posting and they might even throw in a visit to Santa in one of the big department stores.

In Dublin, it became known as the culchies day out – when people who thought of themselves as ‘city slickers’ tended to make themselves scarce, for fear of being swamped by throngs of crazed country bumpkins on a mission to clear the shelves of their best clothes and gift items!

Of course, the big city retailers rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of the influx of the country folk on December 8th – realising the hugely important role they played in the Christmas economy.

These days, the delineation is less obvious – us country folk and city folk have pretty much blended into the one demographic, with long distance commuting and home working meaning we are pretty much all the same, with the same shopping needs and traditions.

Nevertheless, the date is still symbolic in that it tends to mark the beginning of the more intense period of shopping and some people also use it as the date on which to erect the Christmas tree and decorations.

The advent of online shopping has brought the seasonal splurge forward by many weeks – especially with the increase in demand for internet-sourced products since the pandemic, and Brexit meaning items being sourced from the UK may have an even longer lead-in time.

But if one phrase has caught the buying public’s imagination since March 2020, it is ‘buy local’.

The timing of the pandemic, landing as it did at the height of the climate change crisis, has brought additional focus on the need to not just buy locally, but sustainably too.

The emphasis on veering away from plastic toys, fast fashion and items sourced from afar, including the Christmas dinner ingredients, have meant the shop local theme has never been more relevant.

Supporting our local shops has a dual role in enhancing our virtue signalling in recent years: we are helping to keep jobs in our local economy at a time when they were never more threatened; and we are helping to reduce the carbon emissions needed to get these purchases to our doors.

But it is worth remembering that online buying does not mean abandoning our local shops  – most small businesses, and almost all of the larger ones, now have an online presence. And for those of us still feeling vulnerable, or wary of shopping in busy boutiques and stores, the option to click and collect, or click and receive, is a very welcome one. Local bookshops, clothes shops and of course supermarkets are just some of the businesses that have moved with the times and made huge strides in offering in-store and online purchasing.

Others are happy to answer a call with a query about a product and many even offer a virtual personal shopping experience – by bringing customers around the store on a video call. If you are unsure what’s on offer, pick up the phone and make that call.

But whatever you do this Christmas, do try, in the first instance, to … ‘keep it local’.

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