Looking for that perfect gift for that person in your life who has everything? Nashville is the place to be.
Once again this year, many holiday shoppers will give up trolling the parking lot outside the mall in search of an open space in favor of a leisurely market stroll, perhaps with a cup of hot cider. At least a dozen pop-up markets and retail villages will grace Music City this year, and shoppers are expected to show up in ever-growing numbers.
Most analysts agree that sales won't be so cheery for traditional retail again this year, as Amazon and other e-commerce titans continue to siphon off market share with bargain pricing, free shipping and other inducements. But at the same time, a firm segment of consumers remains committed to the concepts of quality, local character, and support for community-based small business in choosing their gifts as well as everyday items. Chris Thomas, founder of MADE SOUTH, one of the South’s premier shopping events, believes he knows why.
“More people than ever care about how they spend their money and who they spend their money with," Thomas said. "They want higher-quality goods, and they want to know the people who are making those goods.”
MADE SOUTH’s holiday shopping event is a newer one, but it has already made itself a shopping staple. This year, it made its return to the Factory at Franklin for the third straight year in a row, featuring 150 different craftspeople and artisans from all over the South. Thomas told Crain’s Nashville he expected more than 5,000 shoppers at the event this year.
Shopping as an experience
Molly Meyer, co-chair of Christmas Village, agrees that there has been a shift in what shoppers are purchasing for gifts. She believes the chance to talk to the makers and even try some of the products makes a huge difference in how and where people are spending their hard-earned cash. As Nashville’s oldest Christmas shopping event, the village drew in more than 30,000 people last year.
“Christmas Village is more than just a shopping event, it's an experience," Meyer said. "For many people, it is their Christmas shopping tradition. We have groups who have been coming for 30 and 40 years. People love giving stuff that's handmade and different.”
This uptick in attendance, and shift toward the locally produced items, means merchants are feeling the love, too. There’s even a waiting list to become a Christmas Village vendor.
“They just kill it. Most merchants are able to find their crowd here,” Meyer said.
A gift for you, a gift for me
Those heading to these shopping events might be a little surprised to see a ticket booth prompting them to fork it over before they even walk through the doors. Christmas Village ticket prices are $10, while MADE SOUTH costs anywhere from a $15 admission to $39 for a VIP pass.
Don’t fret; your ticket money isn’t going directly into the organizers’ pockets. For both MADE SOUTH and the Christmas Village, ticket sales not only support local artisans and businesses but the wider community as well.
Christmas Village was originally started as a charitable event, and in its 57 years has raised $10.7 million to benefit a host of people and organizations such as the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center. A portion of MADE SOUTH’s ticket sales this year will benefit nearby New Hope Academy in Franklin. Other holiday markets have followed suit, with Smyrna’s Holiday Bazaar taking canned good donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank in exchange for admission.