Christmas shopping trends lean toward nostalgia, practicality

Jessica Johnson Staff reporter

December 21, 2013

Merchants in downtown Mount Airy are seeing a rise in both local and out-of-town Christmas shoppers this season, with many of the popular gift items downtown shoppers are buying sparking a sense of nostalgia or the spirit of childhood for young and old alike.

Comfort, convenience, and practicality seemed to drive the purchasing decisions of many shoppers this year, many local merchants reported.

Owner of Scarlet Begonias, Amy Slate, said Small Business Saturday drew “a lot of business” and felt it had gone a long way to bring awareness to the community about the importance of shopping local. “People still come in and mention Small Business Saturday; it was a real beacon for us.”

Slate said the hot item in her store this year is the Bordeaux Wrap scarf. “Everyone is coming in asking about it…it seems to be on every woman's shopping list this year,” Slate speculated.

Summer Currin of Brannock and Hiatt said televisions continue to be a popular Christmas gift choice each year, but noticed that this year people seem to be buying items with comfort in mind, such as recliners and a “more-than-usual” amount of mattresses. “We've sold five mattresses just this week,” Currin said, “and they were all Christmas gifts.”

Employees at Main Oak Emporium said there were several items that seemed to be flying off the shelves this year, including North Face Osito jackets, Ugg Boots, Life is Good items, and a lot of custom-made gift baskets, many that are mailed directly to the recipient. They also reported seeing a higher number of collegiate items as well as a lot of food and wine gifts. Again, a trend of practicality was noted, with items that can be used every day as well as consumables.

Shopping in Main Oak Emporium were Sheena Jarvis with her two children, 6-year-old Kalana Bryant and 3-year-old Keilan Bryant. Jarvis said they are from the Mount Airy area, and really enjoy shopping downtown for “unique Christmas presents.” The family was dressed in red and green Christmas-themed clothing, ready for a day of shopping to complete their Christmas lists.

Jerry Caudle, one of the owners of Bear Creek Gifts, said he thinks fudge is one of the most popular item this Christmas, with many customers buying fudge tins and gift boxes of fudge to ship to loved ones.

Practical gifts continued to be the trend in Mayberry Cheese and Cider, where a customer was assisted by an employee after she purchased an entire case of cider to use for gifts. Employees said a lady from Wyoming had been in earlier in the day, buying a hard-to-find cheese not available in her area, to give as gifts to friends and loved ones. They also were shipping many more gift baskets and variety boxes than usual, containing mainly food and more practical items. New owners Bill and Darlene McArthur said many customers say they come to Mount Airy specifically to do their Christmas shopping downtown, due to traditional appeal and overall vibe of the downtown area.

The Renfro Sock Outlet was packed with customers on Friday afternoon, with Tim Chadwick of Hillsville, Va. saying he had finished off his Christmas list after buying multiple pairs of socks for everyone he knew. “This type of gift is what I like to give, and get too — something I can really use, and at a good price…I guess everyone has kind of a stigma about giving socks, but when times are hard, it's these little things that matter, like a good pair of socks,” Chadwick said with a chuckle.

Many may think of new gifts for Christmas, but antique and vintage items remain popular at Christmas-time as well. Employees at Memories on Main said they are selling a lot of one-of-a-kind gift items, with customers visiting who are trying to find a more personalized item. Tupperware is one of the big items this season, with clean, vintage Tupperware patterns bringing up thoughts of nostalgia in both the gift giver and the recipient.

Marty Adams, owner of Antique Mall of the Foothills in Mayberry, said he has been running a special promotion to bring in customers recently, giving tickets for a chance to win two $25 gift certificates. Adams said customers also get the chance to spin a wheel of prizes, featuring free gift items from other downtown businesses such as fudge at Bear Creek Gifts, a free turnover at Miss Angel's Heavenly Pies, and a free cup of coffee at Pages Bookstore. Adams said it was these “more personal touches” that he believes bring in the loyal customers during the winter months and keep them coming back for special shopping times, like Christmas. “Plus, we are helping out each other, encouraging customers to go in businesses they may not have been in before.”

“The thing about buying antique and vintage items is that these things are not going to wear out in a few months like many new items will…this stuff has been tried and tested. We have customers who say everything they buy for gifts is an antique item,” Adams said.

Another hot nostalgic item this Christmas are the classic Kit-Kat Clocks, which have been in production for 80 years, and according to Mayberry on Main owners Debbie and Darrel Miles, they “are still going strong” in downtown Mount Airy. “Some people collect them, and every time we come out with a new color, they are in here to buy it,” Debbie Miles said, while looking up at the line of Kit-Kat clocks adorning the wall. “We have a hard time keeping all the colors in stock, because they have been so popular this Christmas.”

Toys of all types are always at the forefront of Christmas, with children awaiting Santa Claus' arrival with anticipation. For Paul Stroup, owner of Mayberry Toy Company, the customers who shop often comment that they appreciate “the quality of toys they can't find at the big box stores, toys that are going to last.” The big toy hits of the season included water dancing speakers, “living sand,” and Nano Bugs, as well as a new hit, melting snowmen that can be constructed over and over.