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Countdown is on – East Coast shoppers kicking Christmas prep into high gear early this year

Kerra AuCoin Mansfield is reducing the money she spends on shopping this season by using the points from her credit card and other store cards to get gift cards to give as gifts. This not only saves her money but allows people to shop post-holiday crowds.
Kerra AuCoin Mansfield is reducing the money she spends on shopping this season by using the points from her credit card and other store cards to get gift cards to give as gifts. This not only saves her money but allows people to shop post-holiday crowds. - SaltWire Network

The Easter Bunny was deemed an essential worker by Nova Scotia’s premier Stephen McNeil, so it’s likely Santa Claus will be, too.

This year, to give Santa a little help, many people across Atlantic Canada are starting their Christmas shopping earlier than normal, and it’s mostly because of COVID-19.

Lisa Beliwicz-Gray believes there is going to be a second COVID-19-related lockdown, and if there is, she doesn’t want to be left figuring out how to buy Christmas presents. Instead, the Paradise, N.L. woman has already loaded up her Amazon cart and is hoping to be finished her Christmas shopping by the end of the month.

Allison Whelan, from St. John’s, N.L. has also started her Christmas shopping earlier this year. Her reasons are all pandemic related, too.

“I don't want to be in crowds later in the fall, I’m concerned about product availability as certain items have been difficult to get and, also, will everything be open? Even ordering online takes longer than normal right now,” Whelan says, adding that her main priority is being prepared for whatever comes.

Stores seeing uptick

Angela Kitching, owner of the Village Emporium in Chester, N.S., is hearing more and more shoppers in her store talking about how they are starting their Christmas shopping early in case of a second lockdown.

Kitching says her customers also tell her they are mailing the packages now in case of postal delays.

With statistics showing vast increases in online shopping, many are worried what this will do to locally operated businesses and if they will lose out to the larger conglomerates.

Several small businesses in Atlantic Canada, however, are saying this is not the case.

“I would say more people are shopping locally more than ever before - 100 per cent yes,” says Kim Paddon, owner of Whink gift shop in St. John’s, N.L.

Kim Paddon, owner of Whink gift shop in St. John’s, N.L., says Christmas baskets are going to be hot items for Christmas gifts this year.  - SaltWire Network
Kim Paddon, owner of Whink gift shop in St. John’s, N.L., says Christmas baskets are going to be hot items for Christmas gifts this year. - SaltWire Network

 

Savannah Belsher-MacLean agrees. She operates Green Eye Designs in Charlottetown, P.E.I., a boutique that stocks handmade products from over 40 Island makers, as well as a selection of curated vintage clothing and home decor. She says people are going out of their way to shop locally and support the locally owned stores.

“Shoppers have made comments that they want the shop to still be here next year, so, I'm hopeful that they will continue to support small businesses for their Christmas shopping,” says Belsher-MacLean.

To help customers have easier access to products during the pandemic, Belsher-MacLean says they are working hard to prepare an online shop. This is something Paddon says Whink is already doing.

Savannah Belsher-MacLean of Green Eye Designs in Charlottetown, P.E.I. says people are going out of their way to shop locally and support the locally owned stores when it comes to doing their Christmas shopping.  - SaltWire Network
Savannah Belsher-MacLean of Green Eye Designs in Charlottetown, P.E.I. says people are going out of their way to shop locally and support the locally owned stores when it comes to doing their Christmas shopping. - SaltWire Network

 

“Lots of customers still shopping online. Our online sales are very strong, and we are noticing a rise day-by-day,” says Paddon.

Tips for shopping and saving

Kerra AuCoin Mansfield says the best way to handle Christmas shopping is starting with a plan. Although the Dartmouth, N.S. woman doens’t usually shops before November, like everything else, COVID is making this year different.

AuCoin Mansfield’s shopping plan involves using her points on her credit card. Because she runs her own small business, AuCoin Mansfield has a credit card that she uses to pay for everything and pays off each month. Over the last two years, she has accumulated approximately 55,000 points, which she had been saving for a trip.

Since she now has no idea when she will travel again, she decided to research how many gift cards she could using the points.

“I now have in my hands $465 worth of gift cards for free,” says AuCoin Mansfield.

Through her points, she ordered a $100 Best Western card and a $50 card to Swiss Chalet card, which will go towards a little winter staycation for the whole family. Then, she ordered three gift cards for each member of her family, including herself.

“That’s $465 that didn’t come out of my pocket and that we can use to shop after the holidays,” says Aucoin Mansfield.

The second part of her plan involves using her PC Optimum points, which she collects when purchasing groceries or items at Shoppers Drug Mart. AuCoin Mansfield says she will use these points for a special, usually held at the end of November, where if you use a certain amount of points, you will get hundreds of dollars worth of free products. She plans to take advantage and buy all her stocking stuffers, holiday snacks like chips, crackers, cream cheese, pop, chocolates, appetizers, desserts and more. Plus, she has purchased items like earrings, toys, Crayola products, bath products, makeup, books, and so much more.

After she uses up her points, AuCoin Mansfield plans to support the local movement as much as she can.

“I will hit up farmers’ markets, craft fairs (if they happen) or local makers, breweries/wineries to finish up our holiday shopping and snacks,” she says.

With her plan in place, Aucoin Mansfield says she hopes to keep the actual cash amount under $200 for 2020.

With less than 100 days to go, Christmas shoppers are just going to keep increasing in numbers. As Natasha Curwin, from Dartmouth, N.S. says, she’s going to be doing everything she can to stay ahead of a possible second wave.

“I want to be prepared so that my little guy won’t miss out on anything,” she says. “I want to keep things as normal as possible for him.”

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