As we learn more about the world around us, we’ve become more aware that sometimes our shopping habits can have a negative impact on the planet, whether through unnecessary shipping pollution or poor treatment of workers. Fortunately, there are ways to combat these inadvertent problems, like learning how to shop small.
Lots of misconceptions keep people from shopping small. Some people think that means they have to go to a physical mom-and-pop store in a trendy neighborhood with notoriously bad parking. Others think shopping small means spending more money. And still, others believe that shopping small means less selection.
At Redbubble, we know those misconceptions are flatly untrue. You should be able to find the perfect gift while being socially and environmentally conscious. Read on to find out how to shop small all year long and why it’s important to your community.
How to support small businesses
If you’ve never shopped small before, you’ll need to change a few habits. But it’s worth it! Here’s how to start supporting small businesses.
1. Plan for it
Often shoppers fall into the trap of shopping based on convenience. When you shop small, it may be a bit more challenging than opening a large retail app that sells everything under the sun, but you and your community will reap the rewards.
To shop small, you’ll need to be more intentional and plan ahead. What shops will you frequent? Don’t be surprised if you have to do a little research to find what you’re looking for. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or a map of small businesses near you.
Since making a massive habit switch can be overwhelming, start by identifying specific purchases you’ll commit to making at small businesses. For example, do all your holiday shopping this year at a small business or start buying local produce. Once you’ve mastered those purchases, add a different type of purchase until all your purchases are from small businesses.
2. Shop vintage or second-hand
Support a local vintage or second-hand shop. Many of these are locally owned and operated and benefit members of your community. Plus, vintage fits are always in!
Another benefit of shopping vintage or second-hand: it keeps perfectly good items out of landfills and helps minimize our demand for new items.
3. Check out social media
Social media is a gold mine for shopping small.
Check out the social media feeds you already follow. Odds are, you’ll find people selling everything from artwork to t-shirts to figurines to who knows what else related to your passions. Do you follow an artist active within a fandom? DM them and see where you can buy their merch.
You can also check out the ads. Since most ads these days are targeted based on who you follow and the contact you interact with, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you’ll like from a small business or independent artist.
4. Support artists
Going to a box store chain means you’ll only be exposed to the most popular items they know will sell. It also means you’ll see the same selection as everyone else. As a result, what we consume is often standardized and only reflects our dominant popular culture. Since the secret to giving great gifts is opting for the personal and unique, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Instead, an easy way to shop small is to support artists. Find an artist you like online, or explore the local art scene. You’ll have a better chance of finding something unique that no other store offers, which means you’ll find the perfect gift that no one else will bring to the party. Some artists are open to commissions, so you may be able to order exactly what you want, instead of being limited to what’s on the shelf.
5. Look for marketplaces
Instead of looking for stores, look for marketplaces. These are platforms where individual sellers come together to sell their work rather than each seller having their own site. These make it easier for artists and other sellers to get exposure, sell, and ship their items.
Redbubble is proud to be a marketplace of individual artists. We provide print-on-demand services for thousands of artists and make it easy for them to share and sell their work with people with similar passions.
6. Buy gift cards
You don’t have to buy a specific item from a small business to support them. You can also purchase gift cards. Give them to friends and family as a way to introduce them to a small business that is new to them. The recipient gets to pick exactly what they want, and it gets them in the store, giving the small business a new customer.
7. Write reviews
Whatever you do, make sure you share your positive experiences with small businesses. They often lack the large ad budgets of bigger box retailers, so free word-of-mouth is a powerful tool.
Comment on their social media feeds with praise and pictures of your purchases, or leave an official review on a review site.
Why you should shop small every day
Shopping small has become a movement, largely because of Small Business Saturday, which was started in 2010 and occurs annually on the Saturday after Black Friday. Shopping small has a big impact, especially the more people who participate.
Here are just a few reasons you should shop small all year round.
1. Economic empowerment
Research shows that for every $1 you spend at a small business, $0.67 returns to the community, whether through local taxes, wages to a local employee, or donations to a local charity or community event. In fact, small businesses do more for their local communities than larger retailers in terms of supporting local charities and organizations.
Your purchases at Redbubble support local independent artists so they can invest in their communities. For example, after Russia invaded Ukraine, you purchased work from Ukrainian artists, helping them in their time of need.
2. Increased product diversity
Big retailers tailor to the masses, meaning they only order what they know the most people will want. This leads to the same inventory in every store and leaves out people who don’t fit into popular fads.
When you shop small, the business can cater more to you. If you walk into a local independent bookstore and let them know your favorite author, they’ll probably order more books from that author. If they do that for all their regulars, you end up with an inventory tailored specifically to those customers rather than what some “expert buyer” in a far-off city thinks they’ll like.
No matter your interests, a Redbubble independent artist has already created the perfect gift for you. Let’s say you love turtles and the solar system. One of Redbubble’s independent artists has already designed a pillow with space-exploring turtles. You can find the perfect thing to express every part of your personality because there’s an artist who also loves the solar system and turtles.
3. Sense of community
When you shop small, you’ll probably see the same people working there. You’ll get to know each other and build a relationship that will keep you coming back. If that company has a branded item like a sticker or tote bag, you’ll find yourself recognizing fellow shoppers out in the community.
While Redbubble is a marketplace, you’ll be able to find independent artists who share your interests and support their work. You’ll also be able to connect with strangers at the local coffee shop who have stickers for your favorite fandoms on their laptops. This allows you to create a sense of community online and in person.
4. Environmental impact
Shopping locally has a powerful impact on the environment. For example, when you buy produce at the store, it can come from suppliers far away, causing pollution related to shipping across the country. But if you buy at a local farmers market, that produce only travels a few miles from where it grew to your table. Committing to shopping small makes a great environmental New Year’s resolution.
Redbubble is proud to offer print-on-demand, which means we don’t have a warehouse full of products. Everything you order goes directly from the provider to you, and 95% of the time, the products are printed in the same region as you. Less shipping means less pollution.
5. Less stress
Shopping at the big stores can be challenging, especially during the holiday season. You have to deal with traffic and parking, crowded shops, and the same tired items in every store.
Shopping small is often less stressful because the experience in small businesses is a unique experience often tailored specifically to your needs, especially if you already have a relationship at the shop.
In the case of a marketplace like Redbubble, you can shop a wide variety of unique items and shop for everyone on your list in one place while ensuring the individualized experience of a smaller store.
There’s a different artist for everyone
If you want to start shopping small, start by supporting some of these Redbubble independent artists.
Macbendigo is on a mission to create animal patterns for every animal. They have 736 followers and have been favorited 35,500 times. As a result, they’re one of Redbubble’s Featured Artists and a Fan Artist for the Redbubble Partner Program.
If you can’t find the animal pattern you’re looking for, Macbenigo is open to suggestions! But with more than 300 designs, chances are they’ve already made the perfect pattern for you!
A Redbubble independent artist since 2015, Ella Mazur explores nature and human imagination. As a Redbubble Featured Artists, she has more than 5000 followers, and her work has been favorited more than 70,000 times.
Her nearly 300 designs can be found on a wide variety of products, including wall art, apparel, and accessories.
Based in Macedonia, Enkel Dika is a surrealist artist who enjoys space and alternate dimensions. As a Redbubble Featured Artist, they have more than 600 designs available that have been favorited more than 400,000 times.
Jack Teagle has over 140 designs as a Redbubble Featured Artist. He’s a freelance cartoonist whose work has appeared in publications like McSweeney’s and Nobrow. Since he joined Redbubble in June of 2017, his work has been favorited more than 60,000 times.
Steveswade describes themself as an abstract artist who experiments with color and textures. They also do nature and landscape illustrations. Since becoming a Redbubble Featured Artist, they’ve published over 1,000 designs featured on more than 100 products.
Selma Cardoso joined Redbubble in 2016, with more than 1232 designs available on more than 100 products. Her illustrations range from nature themed to cartoons to abstract patterns and everything in between.
7. Medusa Dollmaker
Medusa Dollmaker’s design collections include botanicals, witchcraft, nerdy, steampunk, lettering, coasts of arms, patterns, and more. Unique designs feature famous people like Joan of Arc, popular fictional characters like Lizzie Bennet, folk patterns, and more. As a Redbubble Featured Artist and a Redbubble Fan Artist, their designs can be printed on over 50 products.
Obinsun has more than 300 designs in their shop and collections centered on cats, magic and rainbows, spooky designs, and holidays. They are an independent illustrator based in Colorado and want their art to “bring smiles and good vibes.” It’s working because their work has been favorited more than 720,000 times! If you’re looking for punny designs that feature a lot of cats, you’re in luck with obinsun!
If you’re looking for something bookish, botanical, autumnal, or tea-ish, ohjessmarie’s shop should be your first stop. Jess is inspired by all things cozy, like books and nature, and a lot of her work has a cottagecore vibe. As a Redbubble Featured Artist, Jess’ work has been favorited more than 121,000 times since she joined in March 2019.
Australian Redbubble Featured Artist Lisa Jayne Murray specializes in bright and happy artwork. Her more than 700 uncomplicated designs populate collections ranging from retro, zodiac, nature, monochrome, and holiday. She cites her obsession with 1970s and 1980s catalogs as inspiring her designs.
Shop Small with Redbubble
This year, whether you’re looking for a trendy gift or want to share a little love and kindness, commit to shopping small for some of your gifts. Explore the variety of gifts from our independent artists and make shopping a meaningful experience.
If you’re an artist looking to start selling your work, sign up to be a Redbubble independent artist today and start creating a community around your passions.