Avoid the crowds at the mall and shipping fees on the Internet this holiday season by shopping at local stores, which are busy preparing to entice customers with a slew of discounts and promotions. Some shops even give back to worthy causes in the community and across the world through customers' purchases.
The North Shore Merchants Collective is kicking off the holiday season with its eighth annual Holiday Open House starting Thursday, Nov. 21, when stores will stay open "Late 'til 8," and continuing through Sunday, Nov. 24.
"We do it as a group because it makes it easier on the consumer," n2 shoes owner Alison Songer said of the open house. "You can get all your shopping done and go from store to store in one area."
She said that weekend is typically very good for sales.
"It does bring a lot of traffic to our area, and all our regular customers come out and support us," said Songer. "A lot of people go out of town for Black Friday, and this makes it easy to take advantage and get in the holiday spirit."
Her store sells mainly shoes and clothes, which some people do not like to buy as gifts because they are unsure of the fit, she said. What is selling well this time of year are her unique philanthropic gifts, such as jewelry made from bullets that raises money for war-torn areas.
"Typically, our products that have a story behind them are selling really well," said Songer.
Plum Nelly owner Catharine Daniels said her customers are getting into the Christmas spirit early this year. As soon as it began to get cold, her customers started asking about holiday items and she decided to put them out a week early this year, she said.
She describes the Holiday Open House as the "make or break season" for retail.
To encourage shoppers to visit as many stores as possible, participating merchants each donated an item to be added to a basket now filled with gifts worth $2,000 to be given away to one lucky winner. Shoppers need only visit a store, not necessarily make a purchase, to be entered into the drawing. Shoppers are entered to win again each time they spend $25 at participating merchants, said Songer.
It's not unusual for North Shore merchants to encourage shoppers to visit multiple stores in one trip to the area. A group of stores now collectively stays open "Late 'til 8" on select Thursday nights, which they announce on "The Shops on Frazier Facebook" page, said Songer.
Now through Christmas Eve, some of the stores are participating in "Selfie with the Elfie," an interactive game in which shoppers search for elves hidden in participating stores. Shoppers take a photo of themselves with the elf and post it on the "Northshore Merchants Collective" Facebook page. The person who posts the most photos wins a cash prize, and those who find 10 elves can get a free photo with Santa at the Knitting Mill.
The stores on the North Shore also band together to give back. The entry fee for the North Shore Merchants Collective's holiday window display contest go toward the Northside Neighborhood House. The participating stores are also serving as drop-off points for a toy drive for NNH, and many shops are offering special discounts in exchange for a donation to the drive.