Karen Brown

Karen Brown, president, Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce


Holidays are a time for gift giving, a tradition that can be traced to the very first Christmas, when three wise kings from the East bestowed tributes to the newborn Son of God.

Over time, the holiday season evolved, and gift-giving became more than a symbolic homage to the Three Wise Men, thanks to a beloved character who joined in on the celebration in the 19th century: Santa Claus. Yuletide’s main gift-giver travels the globe each Dec. 24 and leaves gifts under the tree — and in the stockings — of good girls and boys.

Today, gift exchange is as much a part of the holiday season as the Christmas tree itself.

According to the National Retail Federation — the world’s largest retail trade association — the 2017 holiday retail sales forecast for November and December are to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year.

This year, consumers received a gift: Christmas falls on a Monday, instead of a Sunday, which provides consumers an extra weekend day to complete their holiday shopping.

Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce President Karen Brown would like to see some of those consumer dollars fill the stockings of local businesses.

According to research, for every $100 spent in a locally owned store, $45 stays within the local economy, which helps creates jobs, supports infrastructure and services and stimulates economic development.

“There are so many unique things to consider in the Outer Banks area as gifts for the holidays: Locally made goods; gift certificates from great restaurant, attractions and retail shops; and local art,” Brown says. “The Outer Banks even has the larger stores where you can find great deals on the latest electronics and most asked for gifts.”

Many local businesses are open for extended hours and have special deals and promotions in the spirit of the holiday.

“There are many shopping options all along the Outer Banks region: Tanger Outlets and the Outer Banks Mall in Nags Head, the Dare Center in Kill Devil Hills, Scarborough Faire, Wee Winks Square and Loblolly Pine in Duck, and Timbuck II and Monteray Shores shopping Plazas in Corolla are just a few of the many shopping areas that have stores that remain open through the holidays,” Brown says, adding Manteo’s quaint downtown area with one-of-a-kind shops and the many unique galleries, jewelry stores, clothing boutiques and more on Hatteras Island are not to be missed.

Brown allows that it’s tempting to buy from an online retailer, with many offering free shipping, but doing so does nothing to bolster the local economy: Research shows that holiday sales can account for between a third and nearly two-thirds of a retailer’s annual turnover.

A bad Christmas can mark disaster for a small business.

On top of that, online shopping denies consumers the chance to experience the singular joy that comes from entering a shop that has been decked out for the holidays, the aroma of pine or cinnamon and seasonal music in the air and being offered a cup of eggnog or hot apple cider by the owner.

“The things I like best about shopping on the Outer Banks during the holidays is that there is a slower pace; the stores are not crowded to the point of being unbearable, and the selection of items is so unique,” Brown says. “The people are friendly, and being able to take a break and enjoy a beautiful area just adds to the holiday mood.”

Jennifer Stillwell says she wouldn’t consider buying gifts online, given the array of products available in local shops.

“Why would I give something generic that anyone can buy when I can pop into a shop like Lady Victorian and not only find great stuff but be treated like Princess Kate,” Stillwell says. “There’s nothing like interacting with staff at a local business that not only cares about the bottom line but also cares about its customers. Every time I walk into that store, even if I buy something inexpensive, I’m treated like I spent hundreds of dollars. You don’t get that on Amazon.”

John Ruth says he considers shopping local to be his responsibility as a good citizen, but he quickly adds there’s something intangible that’s equally as important that speaks to the sense of community.

“Everyone knows that shopping locally invigorates our community’s economy, but things of a more personal nature are stimulated, as well,” Ruth says. “One can easily experience that small village seasonal sensation by walking into decorated establishments where you know the owners and the employees will greet you and serve you on a sincere level.”

Kelly Mitchell agrees.

“I can’t say I haven’t shopped online from time-to-time or gone to Lynnhaven Mall, but I always check out local stores before I drive two hours just to spend my money,” Mitchell says. “Normally, I can find pretty cool stuff right here, and I like knowing that I’m doing my part to help local businesses. I love the Outer Banks, and it wouldn’t be what it is without local businesses.”

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