December 1 2021

'Tis the season to shop local: making this season’s gifts truly one-of-a-kind

With major disruptions to rail and trucking routes throughout British Columbia and unprecedented traffic jams at major shipping ports, there’s little doubt supply chain issues will have far-reaching impacts, influencing gift giving this year and shaping consumer habits well into 2022.

The usually hidden logistics of transforming raw materials into products and getting them from the factory to store shelves has become more visible to consumers, with the weaknesses of our just-in-time supply chains fully exposed.

Economists caution the holiday season will come with fewer toys on the shelves, electronics in stores and clothing on racks. The cost of goods is likely to see an uptick too, with increasing inflationary pressures, labour challenges and shortages caused by – you guessed it – supply chain issues. The reality? Chances are high the sought-after product high on the list this holiday season may be stuck on a boat or truck or in a shipping container into the new year. And if you are lucky enough to get your hands on that perfect gift, it may end up costing much more than you budgeted.

Silver bells and silver linings

Local businesses have done what they can to respond, placing large orders with suppliers much earlier than usual. Retailers have invested hard-won dollars to stock up on inventory to prepare for what they hope will be a lucrative holiday season.

It bears repeating: these businesses have endured nearly two years of struggle. Most have needed at least one form of government support – from wage subsidies to programs that ease the burden of fixed operational costs. In addition, difficulties hiring and training workers throughout the last 20 months has exacerbated the challenges that, when combined, create a perfect winter storm, impeding the ability to turn a profit and keep people employed. The impacts of shopping local are far-reaching: according to the City of Calgary if every Calgarian spent an extra $10 per month at a local business this year, we would see 82 more jobs in our city and a GDP increase of $8.3 million.

The good news is there are great ways to thrive in this season of giving while supporting the local businesses that have struggled. This holiday season, give a gift that makes a real difference: invest in your local economy, help keep your neighbours employed and favourite businesses open – and ensure the thoughtful gifts you choose for your loved ones arrive on time.

Here are some ideas for how you can buck the supply-chain blues and support local this holiday season:

Experiences, experiences, experiences!

You don’t have to look hard to find a wealth of unique and memorable experiences in Calgary – which can often be the perfect gift for the hard-to-please person in your life. From ZOOLIGHTS at the Calgary Zoo to comedy and entertainment acts like Chelsea Handler at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, local experiences for all interests and ages are at your fingertips.

The holiday season is a feast for the senses with an abundance of options to enjoy and explore the arts in Calgary. Alberta Theatre Projects launched its new season, Calgary Opera launches a new main stage season in January and Arts Commons offers plenty of giving choices for visual and performing arts experiences.

Consider a gift that will encourage your friend or family member to explore Calgary like a tourist. Gifting an experience of tickets to a local attraction like the Calgary Tower, Telus Spark Science Centre, or Contemporary Calgary is a win-win, giving your loved ones a chance to explore the best of Calgary and a great excuse to get out of the house while staying warm!

For the at-home chef, a hands-on experience with a cooking class from ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen or The Cookbook Co. Cooks will get the creative culinary juices flowing. Classes are tailor-made to help your aspiring chef sharpen their skills in a fun and interactive environment.

Musical mainstays like Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and venues like MacEwan Hall and King Eddy have a variety of exciting acts coming up in 2022 for all ages and musical interests. And if you’re interested in adding some nostalgia to your gift, consider tickets to a seasonal classic from Theatre Calgary: A Christmas Carol runs until December 24.

For the foodie, consider giving a unique culinary experience like dinner in the dark, served up by visually impaired guide servers, at Dark Table. For the beer connoisseur, a behind-the-scenes experience like a tour or tasting with Wild Rose Brewery is sure to satisfy.

Help make a family’s day, and maybe even some treasured memories, with tickets to a local recreation centre or play place. A drop-in or monthly pass to family fun destinations like The Beach YYC, The Big Box, Flying Squirrel, B-Line indoor Bike Park are all great options to stay active, hone athletic skills and have fun during the winter months.

For families with slightly older children, tickets to a unique site like The Hangar Flight Museum or Studio Bell National Music Centre are options that will mean hours of fun, learning and family memories. Another creative idea for families or couples: hire a local photographer like Photos with Finesse to capture a special occasion.

For the learner in your life, consider the gift of a class, course or workshop. Here are just a few of the options available right here in Calgary:

For the sports fanatic, experiences are plentiful. Tickets to the Calgary Flames, Stampeders, Cavalry FC and countless other local sporting events are a sure way to satisfy the sports fan in your life.

For those with fitness goals, consider introducing a new fitness experience like a subscription to Barre Body OnDemand from Barre Body Studio, a package of spin classes from a local studio like YYC Cycle or a trial membership to a fitness studio offering a variety of class options like CrushCamp.

Bucking the supply-chain blues: five more things

When it comes to matching an experience with each person on your list, Calgary businesses offer something for everyone. Along with unique and authentic experiences, here are a few other creative ways to switch up your holiday gifting routine:

1. Make a donation
Many non-profit organizations are suffering from declines in charitable giving and other challenges. Consider finding a local non-profit your friend or family is passionate about and make a donation in their name.

2. 100-Mile Challenge
You may have heard about the 100-mile diet challenge when it comes to eating local, but this year could be a chance to borrow the idea to give local. Challenge family, friends and colleagues to a “buy-local” gift exchange, asking each participant to purchase gifts available within city limits. The Calgary Chamber makes it extra easy to find local products and services with the Chamber marketplace featuring the best of local business – all online!

And for businesses looking to promote their local-ness to Calgarians, #SupportLocalYYC from the City of Calgary features a marketing toolkit, information and resources on the impact of shopping local and more reasons for Calgarians to support made-in-Calgary shops this season.

3. Best of Calgary Gift Box
For a thoughtful and personalized gift, consider putting together your Calgary-based favourites to share with a friend. From textile options like Local Laundry and HippoHug, to locally made goodies from Cococo Chocolatiers and Cookie Occasion, you’ll have endless options to create custom, one-of-a-kind local gift baskets.

4. Gift cards
If you can’t find that perfect gift, a gift card from a local business may be the right option this year. Gift cards can be redeemed throughout the coming months, and as supply chains are fully restored, give businesses a bit of extra time to fully replenish their inventory and welcome customers back to stocked shelves in 2022.

5. The gift of membership
Consider a Chamber of Calgary membership or other association membership as a great B2B corporate gifting option. Benefits like member pricing for industry and networking events, membership discounts for products and services like office supplies and insurance, plus access to preferred pricing on employee benefits through the Chambers Insurance Plan are just some of the perks. An annual Chamber of Calgary membership is a gift that keeps on giving…all year long!

The possibilities for unique Calgary experiences, products and services are nearly endless. So, if the shelves look a little bare at your favourite retailer and you are in need of some inspiration, consider giving a bit differently this holiday season. Knowing you’re supporting a local business is the best gift of all – for everyone.