For holiday gift givers, shopping local can be a great way to help small businesses in need of support. It not only ensures the vitality of Nebraska, but it also provides the opportunity for unique gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list.
Heart of the state
Whether looking for a unique gift for a friend, or employees to thank them for a job well done this year, the wide range of small businesses in Nebraska lend opportunity for one-of-a-kind gifts. When it comes to shopping local, one thing is certain: small businesses need your support during the recent public health and economic crisis and now is the time to consider focusing on spending your dollars locally as much as possible.
“Buying local is always better, since it directly impacts your local economy,” said Becky Alexander, general manager at The Game Shoppe.
Brian Leimbach, manager at Shucks, noted that local businesses employ a lot of Omaha residents’ friends, family and neighbors.
“They provide a lot of community support, especially during the holidays,” he said.
Springfield Artworks located in Springfield, Nebraska, has a sign on the door that reads: “Santa Shops Here First.”
“Having great quality items done here in the U.S. and Nebraska is important,” said Margie Trembley Chapeaux, who owns Springfield Artworks with husband Glenn Trembley.
At Made in Omaha, 91 cents to the dollar gets filtered back into the local economy.
“This number is so important to keep our local creatives in our community and money directly in their pockets,” said Teri Healy, an owner at Made in Omaha. “Amazon for example, only has 1 cent to the dollar going back to the local economy. Support local, it matters!”
Carl Erickson, event & community outreach coordinator at The Bookworm, suggested considering the benefits of supporting the community vs. saving a few bucks.
“The vitality [small businesses] provide a city and the way the community is supported by them is unparalleled,” he said. “It can be hard to pay the few extra dollars when you know an item may be cheaper online, but the benefits are plentiful and necessary.”
Spirit World owner Laurie Hellbusch noted that shopping locally can provide shoppers a better customer experience.
“Buying local can be a big help when issues arise, as there is an actual person that can help you along the way,” she said. “Often, small
local businesses are knowledgeable about their products and can help with recommendations on substitutions and supply issues, if necessary.”
Top gift picks
No matter who is on your list this year to buy for, the perfect gift could be found at one of the many locally owned and operated shops in Omaha.
Hellbusch noted that wine gift baskets are some of Spirit World’s top sellers.
“They are always a hit,” she said. “They come with anywhere from one to three bottles of wine, plus cheese, crackers, sausage, and other gourmet foods and range in price from $35 to $150, or we can put together custom baskets with items of your choosing within most budgets.”
John Lindley, owner of Lindley Clothing, noted there are many options for that special executive gift.
“We have been seeing an uptick already in Christmas shopping,” Lindley said. “Trends have been pretty much sportswear based and a lot of business casual. We have sold a lot of gift cards — gift cards are always a good choice for a boss.”
Since staying home is the new ‘norm,’ giving the gift of games has become very popular in the last year. Alexander noted that The Game Shoppe offers a full range of products for people young and old.
“Some of this season’s top picks would be Wingspan and Catan,” she said. “Some of the top gifts for our miniature gamers would be paint sets. Collectible card gamers are looking for card sleeves, deck boxes, and the new Pokemon 25th Anniversary Celebrations, but really anything Pokémon related seems to be extremely hot.”
The shop has a variety of local gifts including candles that include movie and TV show quotes.
“I also love putting together food baskets, and this year we have brought in some fun additions to the shops,” she shared. “They include Jock & Jill’s popcorn, Volcanic Pepper Hot Sauce, Urban Slicer, Lulubee Peppermint Bark, & Reboot Coffee pouches.”
Savvy shoppers are ordering their treats early this year.
“We are seeing lots of people ordering earlier this year, hoping to avoid [a repeat of] last year’s disruptions in shipping,” said Michael Mitlier, co-owner of Brownie Bar. “Our most popular gift item is our six and twelve sample packs.”
For those looking for handmade gifts, Trembley said top picks are Springfield Artworks include her husband’s fused glass ornaments, sandblasted mugs with either the state of Nebraska or Iowa etched into the surface, and her watercolor print cards and 100% wool berets.
Customers coming into The Bookworm are prepared earlier this year.
“We have shoppers with their lists from grandchildren and family already, and they’re getting special orders placed early,” Erickson said. “We also see host gifts and entertaining flying out the door.
“After a 2020 holiday season where most people didn’t visit family and friends — or if they did, kept gatherings small — we’ve noticed that people are buying cocktail napkins, party cookbooks (especially cheeseboard books), and items that they can give for host gifts (i.e. tea towels, candles, candy/food items).”
At Shucks, wine and spirits are expected to be popular gift items as well as other shelf stable gourmet foods.
“There will be certain items that will not be available at all this year, and some that will be in very limited supply,” Leimbach said. “There may also be increased delays in the amount of time it takes for stores to receive the items they have ordered. Be prepared for surprises, both good and bad, as well as new offerings to supplement items that may not be as plentiful in previous holiday seasons.”
It is no secret that supply shortages are causing issues around the country. Businesses are aware of the impact this will have on the upcoming gift giving season, so they are starting to stock up now. With supply issues a reality, customers also need to start thinking about starting their shopping earlier than they might normally.
Lindley said he was preparing for re-orders of items for November three months in advance because orders made in November would not arrive in time for the holidays.
“If you see something that you think would be perfect for someone
on your list, do not wait to buy it,” Healy advised. “With supply shortages continuing to rise, the possibility of something being sold out and not coming back in stock during the holiday season is a high possibility.” Alexander agreed.
“Be patient, supply shortages are inevitable no matter if you’re a small business or a big box retailer,” she said. “If you can, start holiday shopping early. Make a list, with a lot of options, so that if your first or second options aren’t available you’ve got backups. Pre-order! I can’t stress this more. If you know you’re going to want it, please preorder it.”
The Bookworm’s Erickson has noticed the bookstore is going through overstock quickly.
“We’re encouraging our customers to buy something — or ask us to put it on hold — if they see something they’ll probably want,” he said. “We’re also expecting that getting books re-ordered from warehouses and publishers will be difficult because reprinting isn’t happening as quickly as we’re used to.”
Leimbach noted that Shucks would typically start working on the holiday season in October.
“This year, it began in August,” he said. “We secured many items early, particularly frozen seafood and meats as supply and prices have been very unstable.”
Greg Lindberg, owner of Absolutely Fresh, which is the companion seafood market to Shucks, said favorites like lobster tails and crab legs will likely experience shortages and record-high prices.
Bottom line, local owners suggest keeping an open mind.
“Consumers should be prepared to be flexible with their gift ideas and be willing to make substitutions if items aren’t available,” Hellbusch recommended. “The best advice is to go somewhere where the staff is well trained and can make knowledgeable recommendations for product substitutions. Don’t wait until the last minute, start shopping early.”
10 REASONS TO SHOP LOCAL THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
BY NICK HUFF, CO-OWNER, MADE IN OMAHA & HUTCH
Grow Omaha’s Local Economy – Shopping at a local store means more money is kept in Omaha, thus creating an economic stimulus in our community. For some local stores, 91 cents to the dollar gets filtered back through the Omaha economy, compared to 31 cents to the dollar of national big box stores.
Retain Local Creatives – By shopping local, you are supporting local creatives and business owners — by doing this, it creates a more diverse and unique community, while keeping local talent in Omaha.
Reduce Environmental Impact – Shopping local means you’re likely to shop within your town, or even close to your neighborhood, making shopping more centralized and convenient — lowering congestion and pollution, making the environmental impact reduced.
Improved Customer Service – Local workers who work for a local company tend to care more about their mission and job, and treat customers better. Customers on average get an overall better customer service experience at local businesses.
Community Well-Being – Local business owners often donate more to local nonprofits and charities than national chains. This helps local nonprofits have more impact in the community.
Local Shops are Unique – Business owners who decide to develop a concept and open a business locally, tend to have more creative freedom and access to more unique products and services. This makes the shopping experience more personal and rich.
Put your Taxes to Good Use – Big box stores typically come to town demanding tax incentives, while local businesses require much less infrastructure and investment, and make better, more efficient use of existing buildings and spaces.
Increased Innovation – Locally-owned businesses tend to create a marketplace to promote innovation and healthy competition, creating more options for local customers to shop.
Local Jobs – Local shops create more jobs for Omaha, and tend to have competitive wages and benefits.
Entrepreneurship – Omaha wouldn’t be where it is without local entrepreneurs going after their dreams. Let’s make sure to spend our dollars in Omaha this season to keep our community prospering for years to come.