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How I ditched the mall and discovered a better way to do Christmas shopping

The service was superior, the products more unique and the experience more pleasant. Photo: Getty
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Three weeks ago, as I descended into a shopping mall carpark that barely had a spare space or a hint of festive spirit, I made a decision: I would shop entirely local this Christmas.

No mega malls. No canned carols. If I couldn’t walk there or get there in under five minutes, I wouldn’t shop there.

That decision changed Christmas shopping for me forever.

I started at the church bazaar where everyone – mostly unpaid volunteers – greeted me with a smile and was selling things they’d made, sourced or produced themselves.

The next stop was my corner shop, where I went to stock up on posh sunscreen as gifts for the family’s beachgoers, and was offered a free box of travel-sized add-ons.

“No steak knives, but close,” the pharmacist joked cheerily from behind the counter.

At the local bookstore, they happily wrote out ‘gift receipts’ and slipped them inside the covers.

There was no queue at the deli, and plenty of pretty stocking-stuffers.

“It’s quiet,” a shopkeeper told a customer, “everyone’s saying that”. At the local electronics shop, two sales assistants fought over who’d help me.

I completed my mission having had great service, no parking woes, no traffic issues. Because, of course, traffic and Christmas go together like pudding and custard, especially as an army of double-parking couriers jams the streets delivering gifts we’ve ordered online before the Christmas delivery cut-off.

Three years ago, my local traders put up signs on the street’s rubbish bins to encourage us not to stray into town, or the mega-malls.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same thing,” they implored.

Yes, I’m lucky to live in an area with a bookstore and little shops where small traders choose their wares carefully. But it’s lovely to shop in places where the traders are deeply grateful for the business.

Christmas is better for it.

As I shopped, I became aware that all around me shops were empty and a forest of “for lease” signs had sprung up.

So I’ve decided to change my shopping habits for good, not just at Christmas. Being able to walk to the shops is one of life’s little pleasures.

Next year, I’ve warned the family, we might go one step further and add a bit of sustainability. I’ll shop antique, retro, recycled, vintage. The local op-shop is a two-minute stroll.

I can’t see myself returning to the mall for quite a while. Because, as a local boutique owner advised me yesterday, “we’re going on sale Christmas Eve … you don’t even have to wait till Boxing Day!”

Count me in.

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