With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday behind shoppers, and only 12 more days until Christmas, consumers are scrounging for last-minute gifts.
While gift cards, neckties and ugly Christmas sweaters may seem the only option, downtown Delaware business say they offer unique alternatives to classic presents that make for better gift-giving.
The small business holiday shopping season started with Small Business Saturday, the day following Black Friday, during which consumers put about $5.7 billion into small shop cash registers, compared with $5.5 billion in 2012, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Awareness of the alternative to big-retailer Black Friday grew from 67 percent surveyed by the NFIB in the 2012 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey to 71 percent in this year’s survey.
Small businesses want to see that spending continue through the season, especially with projections that Central Ohio is projected to see more than $2.9 billion in retail spending during November and December holiday shopping, according to the 2013 Holiday Retail Spending Forecast by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati.
Small business owners are hoping that their different-from-the-box-store offerings will draw a portion of that spending into their tills.
At Fundamentals, 25 W. Winter St., a children’s book store that also offers learning toys and games, owner Tami Furlong identified the Potato Chip Science kit as her unique gift for kids.
“This is one of my favorite gifts to recommend, and if you pair it with Pop Bottle Science, you’ve got your whole junk food science,” she said.
Both science kits, which come packaged in a potato-chip style bag and a plastic bottle respectively, retail for less than $20. The Potato Chip Science kit has 29 experiments in it.
“It’s something they’re not just going to do in one sitting,” she said.
Her store also carries toys such as Q-Ba-Maze, a not-so-average building block set and marble game, a Star Wars oragami kit and a Paracord Wristband kit – one of her most popular items for boys, she said.
“I just try to carry stuff (shoppers are) not going to find in the big box stores,” Furlong said. For kids, it’s education snuck into toys, “and they don’t even know it.”
Next door, at the Pure-N-Simple Natural Foods, 23 W. Winter St., owner Tamara Macaluso is selling local honey from Hollyday Farms that comes in a gift box and unique bottle.
“I’m giving a few of these for the holidays,” she said of the $18.50 box. “That’s a great price point.”
She’s seeing her second holiday shopping season at Pure-N-Simple and is hoping that her unique offerings may get a few customers in the door.
She pointed out an amber necklace as an example. The Baltic Amber Teething Necklace is designed for babies (and would make an good gift for parents of teething children, she said) though it can be used for anyone.
“It’s very calming,” she said.
Long-time Delaware business owner Patrick Bailey said he’s stocking puzzles of classic album covers by artists David Bowie, Johnny Cash and The Rolling Stones in his music store.
“It’s not just classic album covers, but it’s the back-side too,” he said, flipping over the box that blends in with the records seemlessly to show the challenge of the less than $15 gift. “Hours of pleasure.”
In Delaware, even the classic gift of jewelry can get turned on its head with downtown business newcomer Delaware Diamonds.
Owner Kristy Fetzer said the jewelry from New Orleans designer Frederic Duclos fit the bill.
“We’ve already had a lot of people comment on them saying they’re unique,” Fetzer said.
Her mother, Sherry, who also works in the store, showed off a lava stone necklace and a necklace and earring set made of hammered rhodium.
“It’s earthy, it’s artsy,” said Sherry Fetzer. “Since this is an artsy community, that might be an option.”
The pieces run $300 to $600, depending on the item. The Fetzers said they also carry custom-designed jewelry such as a one-of-a-kind boulder red opal from Australia set with Tsavorite garnet and citrine with a more than $3,000 price tag.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 23 million small businesses across the country account for 54 percent of all annual sales. Since 1982, the number of small businesses has increased 49 percent. Small Business Saturday is a promotion started by American Express in 2010 that encourages consumers to shop at local retailers by promoting independent businesses the day after Black Friday.