holiday shopping

In Final Holiday Stretch, Vt. Businesses Have New Ways to Reach Customers

A series of outdoor markets in Burlington has been popular this holiday shopping season

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With just over a week to go until Christmas, many shipping deadlines for online orders are here, or will be very soon.

That has brick-and-mortar retailers and indie merchants hoping shoppers will remember them for in-person shopping—while wearing masks and sanitizing their hands, among other COVID-19 prevention measures.

Some small businesses in Vermont also have new ways of reaching customers.

"This is huge," florist Meredith Clayton said of a winter market she took part in last week in downtown Burlington.

Clayton said her business, Clayton Floral, lost sales to the pandemic, in the form of bouquets and arrangements for weddings and orders from hotels and restaurants.

For that reason, the designer said she was really glad for the new, temporary opportunity to sell her creations in City Hall Park.

"We're all kind of getting stir-crazy, too, so even just being able to get out—a change of scenery feels very positive and uplifting, which we're all needing," Clayton said.

One of the early markets in Burlington's series of outdoor events had a long line of masked shoppers spaced out as they waited to buy local.

"When you invest in small businesses, the money just goes right back to our community," shopper Jenna Heale told NECN affiliate NBC 5 News earlier this month.

Burlington's nonprofit education and business incubator space known as Generator produced the covered kiosks used for the markets. They come with electricity and a space heater for merchants, who the mayor said could use a boost after such a tough year.

"I truly believe that Burlington can and will emerge on the other side of this pandemic as an even stronger and healthier community," Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a recent press conference aimed at encouraging people to support city shops and restaurants during the holidays. "Our locally-owned businesses are an important part of that, and I encourage everyone who is able to consider ways to help them."

Small businesses have been working overtime trying to drive critical traffic.

The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Vermont Agency of Agriculture has been promoting their new online directory built with CARES Act funds,, which links folks to e-commerce and in-person shopping options.

Vermont resident Troy Austin decked out his SUV with Christmas lights

"I get a sense that Vermonters and a number of people around our region are really focused on trying to help their neighbor as much as possible, and this is one way they can do it," Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said of the new web resource for shoppers.

The Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, which wants to see storefronts stay filled and vibrant through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, suggested there's another reason to pick up purchases close to home, whether through curbside ordering or in-store.

That reason is fear over gifts not making it in time, due to shipping delays, according to Erin Sigrist, the president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association.

"The best way to avoid that is to shop locally," Sigrist recommended.

Burlington's next winter market runs Wednesday, Dec. 16 through Sunday, Dec. 20, from noon to 6 p.m. More information can be found on the Love Burlington website.

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