How Retailers Can Positively Contribute to a Minimalist Holiday Shopping Experience


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Every year, just as the holiday decorations and Muzak hit the stores I go through the same thing, a physical and emotional sweat over finding the BEST GIFT EVER for [insert loved one’s name here]. What are those things that will be better than all the rest? That they will cherish until the end of time? That will make them think I’m the best [insert relationship category] ever? So every year I scour the stores, both online and at the mall, and buy up everything I think fits the bill.

The reality is, despite all of this sweating, I can’t remember what I bought my husband last year. Neither can he. And my daughter plays with her plastic toys for a couple of weeks until it gets shared with one of her friends or donated to charity.

And I’m exhausted.

So this year I’m taking a different approach. Yes, I will shop. But I won’t sweat it. I’m going simple, on the verge of minimalism. I’ve taken a page from these guys: the minimalists. These guys are so minimalist, their brand name doesn’t even use capital letters!

They say: Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.


So, Mr. or Ms. Retailer, we’ve collected some potential tactics you can use that will still help you grow your business, but will also help exhausted yet inspired shoppers like me this holiday season.

Embrace the Homemade Culture

Few things speak to the heart more than a homemade gift. For people who know how to bake Mom’s banana bread, knit personalized hats and mitts, solder jewelry, throw pottery cups and bowls, play piano well enough to make a CD, or write stories in a homemade book, gift giving is as easy as letting your talent loose. And retailers can support these homemade strategies in a number of ways.

Spark Ideas: Food and beverage retailers might have the easiest time here. You can provide recipes, directions, and instructions for new and unusual things to make that will inspire existing and new customers to use your products in a variety of ways. Sobeys has done a great job of this by providing a variety of recipes on their website.

Grow Skills: Retailers like Home Depot can teach people new skills like tiling, caulking, or gardening, all great ways to thrill a loved one who desperately wants an upgrade in their home.

Support Creatives: And of course, you can help promote your most creative customers by including their handiwork in your Etsy

Promote Giving Back

The holiday season is often a firm reminder of how fortunate some of us are. As retailers, there are many ways to ‘give back’ and extend the generosity of your customers.

Accept Donations: Many people can benefit from lightly used books, clothes, shoes, and household goods. Retailers can facilitate generosity by including donation boxes in their stores. Many grocery stores have food donation boxes permanently set up in their stores and there’s no reason other retailers can’t do this as well.

Promote Point Gifts: Set up a program with a recognized charity so your customers can donate their loyalty points to one of their favourite causes. Programs like Aeroplan, HBC rewards, and Shopper’s Optimum already allow their members to donate to the Canadian Red Cross and various other charities.

BOGO for charity: Offer two-for-one deals where the customers take home one item, and the other item is donated to charity. Some retailers, such as Toms which donates shoes among other things, are already doing this.

Encourage Minimalism

Promote Experiences: Focus your promotions on products that won’t end up in the landfill. Food and beverages are loved and appreciated, and require no long-term shelf space. Clothes, shoes, books, games, and toys get enjoyed and gradually wear out, or get shared and donated to someone else – it’s new to them!

Embrace the Good Ol’ Days: Boxes, tissue paper, string, elastics – Gramma and Grampa, Nonna and Nonno, Awa and Tata, Oma and Opa used to save and reuse everything. Maybe it’s time for us to do more of the same. If your business seems to toss these items, maybe it’s time to figure out how to offer them to your customers as environmentally friendly gift wrapping options.

Promote Reusable: If your product packaging isn’t recyclable in the local area, make recycle bins available in store for customers to return packaging to. Offer tips on alternative ways to use the packaging and offer to collect the items for these purposes – tissue paper can go to schools for making paper maché, Styrofoam and foil plates make for fun children’s crafts.

Promote Togetherness: Create customized experiences that incorporate an aspect of your company. From lunchboxes that celebrate local restaurants or bakeries to gifts of family activity ideas to take to a local park, businesses can do a lot to inspire better family and together time.

There are many ways that retailers can support the holiday gift giving traditions we love so much while still respecting the needs of different customers. Take some time to consider what’s important to your customers this holiday season, and see if you can help them feel great about their gifting choices.

We’d love to help you along the way. Do feel free to get in touch!

Annie Pettit, Ph.D. FMRIA
Annie Pettit, PhD, FMRIA is a research methodologist who specializes in marketing and research design and strategy. She is an invited speaker at conferences around the world and has published refereed and industry articles. She won a Ginny Valentine Award, ESOMAR Excellence Award for the Best Paper, MRIA Award of Outstanding Merit, and ESOMAR Best Methodological Paper. Annie blogs at LoveStats, tweets at @LoveStats and is the author of "People Aren't Robots" and "7 Strategies and 10 Tactics to Become a Thought Leader" both available on Amazon.


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