Shopping locally: Gift ideas for students during a COVID-19 Christmas


Supporting small businesses during the holiday season is important in a COVID-19 world.

Finals are just around the corner… but so is Christmas! For many families, 2020 is the first year in which they will not be able to hold large gatherings with all their relatives or travel freely to new cities throughout the holidays. However, the season of gift-giving still holds a strong meaning for most, including many members of the Guilford College community.

Early College at Guilford alum Aidan Hunt shared these sentiments of gift-giving: “Hopefully gift giving this year during the holidays will help remind loved ones that they are always close to each other even though we cannot travel.”

However, one thing to keep in mind during the holiday season this year is the value of buying from local and online small businesses, as opposed to ordering from large corporations such as Amazon and fast fashion brands such as Fashion Nova or Forever 21. 

Due to COVID-19, there is added economic pressure on small businesses, many of which are experiencing monetary struggles due to the drastically decreased volume of in-person clientele. 

According to CNBC, over 100,000 small businesses in the United States have closed permanently since the pandemic began. Many of those that have not closed down yet are still struggling economically. 

There is also a large volume of online entrepreneurs experiencing financial strains due to the fact that fewer people are willing to spend money on their products during their own economic struggles.

Fortunately, the upcoming holiday season raises a need for many people to buy gifts, preferably inexpensive ones that do not come with a heavy shipping fee. The immediate benefits for shopping from a small business are simple: there is no handling or shipping cost added to an already lofty price, the size and quality of objects can be witnessed in person prior to purchase and the treatment of employees is much more transparent than in large corporations. 

Local businesses also support the community, as a percentage of the tax money from purchases is frequently recirculated to support public schools, parks, roads and public service workers. According to Civic Economics, “On average, 48% of each purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally.” 

However, it may not be easy to find a great local small business during a pandemic, as going outside to explore is a privilege that many college students cannot afford in their last few weeks of classes. Instead, we turned to the Guilford College community for their expertise on their favorite local small businesses in the Triad. 

For family members with a strong sweet tooth, a local small business to check out is The Sweet Shop, located on Elm Street in downtown Greensboro. Yelp users highly recommend the pound cake as one of their favorite purchases. Early College alum Trinity Taylor cited The Sweet Shop as one of her favorite small businesses to support. 

“It feels nice to support the business of a female entrepreneur,” Taylor said. “The cakes are moist and delicious!” 

Another bakery located on Elm Street is Cheesecakes by Alex, a local favorite for many. This store also has a branch in Winston-Salem. As a thoughtful, COVID-friendly gift, students can purchase and mail or deliver a gift card from either of these local bakeries.

 Vida Pour Tea, according to their website, is an “organic, fair trade local tea shop.” Located on State Street in Greensboro, NC, Vida Pour Tea sells local goods, kombucha, kefir, hand-blended tea, herbs and art. Since it is frequently difficult to acquire organic loose-leaf teas, Vida Pour Tea is a great, local small business to visit if there is a tea lover in your life.

Early College at Guilford alum Alexa Trotter also recommended downtown Greensboro as a great place to shop for gifts. She specifically mentioned Just Be, a local boutique selling jewelry, handbags, apparel and home decor. Another of her favorite stores is Terra Blue, which sells “metaphysical products” including crystals, candles, tarot cards and a wide selection of herbs.

Scuppernong Books is another local business in downtown Greensboro, with reasonably-priced books both new and used, for the bookworms in your life.

For those located near in the Raleigh-Durham area, students at the School of Science and Mathematics recommend visiting local boutique Amber Shares. Amber Shares is present on social media as well, featuring an extensive online store for all of her in-store products.

Shares’s best-selling series, Subpar Parks, is available for purchase on social media (Instagram: @subparparks.) For those who enjoy funny, snarky, sarcastic commentary, this is truly a collection to check out, as Shares negatively reviews national parks that she has visited in her collection of posters, stickers, pictures and prints that are widely purchased throughout the United States. 

Even for those who may be understandably afraid to venture out to visit small local businesses, there are still ways to support them online. A popular platform for small online entrepreneurs, and a great place to find gifts, is Etsy. Early College at Guilford alum Emmalyn Sarver cited @layeredgrace on Etsy as one of her favorite online small businesses. 

“One of my best friends started (Layered Grace) over the summer,” she said. “I know that one of her plans in the future is to donate a portion of her profit to charity as well. Also her products are amazing! She makes T-shirts and they’re super comfy… I wear them literally every day.”

Layered Grace is also present on social media (Instagram: @layeredgrace), and features a wide selection of T-shirts and sweatshirts. 

Regardless of your situation during the pandemic, there is always a way to support local small businesses. To give back to the community a bit more during our first (and hopefully last) COVID-19 Christmas, consider celebrating the holidays by purchasing from these small businesses.