TWIN FALLS — The term “shop local” takes on a new meaning this holiday season.
Traditionally, Black Friday was considered the biggest holiday shopping day of the year. On the day after Thanksgiving, retailers would roll out their biggest deals and lowest prices. But this year, COVID-19 has caused many big box stores to spread out their savings to avoid large swarms of people searching for bargains.
Walmart announced in September it would put on three separate sales in November, both online and in store. Customers also have the option to pick up their online Black Friday orders through Walmart’s contact-free curbside pickup service. All Walmart stores will still open at 5 a.m. local time on Black Friday.
So if you are trying to avoid large crowds and help the local economy, this holiday season is an even more convenient time to shop local small businesses.
Kindsey Taylor owns The Brass Monkey, a boutique clothing store selling men’s and women’s fashion in downtown Twin Falls. Taylor plans to hold a Black Friday sale and participate in Small Business Saturday.
“I think us being a small business, it’s the perfect time to shop small,” Taylor said. “It’s not as intense and crazy as when you go to big box stores.”
Shopping local will support small businesses, which have struggled nationwide due to the pandemic. Almost 100,000 small businesses in the U.S. have closed permanently since the pandemic began, according to a Yelp analysis in September.
The same analysis also stated “even in the wake of increased closures we’re seeing businesses effectively transition to new operating models while keeping their employees and consumers safe.”
Since The Brass Monkey is a small business, Taylor can offer private shopping appointments for people who want to shop by themselves.
“It’s whatever makes people in the public feel comfortable,” she said. “They mask up and we will mask up. We want to make sure everybody can support local and have a great holiday with their families.”
The Brass Monkey also has a website and customers can place orders and store employees will deliver them curbside.
“This year we will see how it goes,” Taylor said. “Nothing is guaranteed and as a business owner it is nerve-racking. We have no idea if it will be slower or busier.”
The holiday shopping season at The Brass Monkey usually starts in October and really picks up after Thanksgiving.
““We do actually depend on our community to support us and shop with us,” Taylor said. “Without them we would not have a store, a business. And this year, it shows you more than ever; we really do need to put our money back into our towns instead of the big box stores that are making money hand over fist in a pandemic year.”
Toytown has been at its Twin Falls location for 10 years. The toy store specializes in educational and interactive toys and games.
But because of the pandemic, Laurel Condon, a member of the Toytown team, said they haven’t put out as many toys for people to touch, feel and experience. They’ve also stopped handing out samples of homemade fudge sold at the store.
“We think there are a lot of people who want to shop local, but they don’t want to come out,” Condon said. “That’s been a really hard factor for us, that people aren’t coming out as much.”
Condon said what sets Toytown apart from big retail stores is their level of expertise. In fact, staff members are called “toy experts.”
“We show and tell you what’s in the box,” Condon said. “We personally share our favorites and what we’ve been selling for so many years and what’s selling. I think that’s a big difference coming into our small store. We know our products.”
And during a year where online shopping is booming, Condon said they can provide a certain level of relief. By shopping in-person, customers have the product in-hand, instead of hoping it will arrive in time for the holidays.
The last 10 days of the holiday shopping season are usually the store’s busiest.
Popular items this year have been puzzles and chemistry kits. Popular toys are also nostalgic ones such as Hot Wheels, Polly Pocket and metal Slinkys.
“We always sell out of the classics,” she said.
Typically, Fashion 15 Below would hold a huge Black Friday Sale. The boutique store sells clothing and accessories where items are priced $15 or less.
This year, sales lead Madie Hunter said the store is spreading out its savings like some of their larger retail counterparts.
“Normally we do, but just to be on the safe side, instead of one big sale, we’ve been doing doorbusters,” Hunter said. “It’s every week and it’s a surprise. It makes it a little more fun.”
However, Hunter said they still have special products they are holding until Black Friday.
Even though holiday shopping will be different than the year’s past, Hunter said they are more curious than worried about how it will all play out.
“We’ve been doing very good since COVID,” Hunter said. “We have an app and it’s amazing. Our sales have jumped for our online.”
In March, the store launched Erin’s Closet, which features personally curated items. Popular items have included loungewear and PJ sets.
The comfort trend is also playing out down the street at The Brass Monkey. Taylor is receiving more requests for cozy with more people working from home and staying at home more.
“More comfort over fashion,” Taylor said. “I know a lot of companies that I am working with, that are comfort companies, they are on fire this year.”