Even with the Regent Street lights hung and ready to glow and festive jingles dancing over our TVs, it’s increasingly clear that Christmas shopping will probably be a bit different this year. As we switch to online shopping, you might be hoping to avoid spending big bucks with the internet’s most convenient candidate, Amazon. Whether you’re concerned about ethical obligations and environmental footprints or are just wanting to continue to support local, independent businesses over a difficult period, there’s plenty of online retailers to turn to as an alternative to the multinational corporation this festive season.
You’ve heard of hygge but what about the Jolabokaflod? Sweden’s other winter tradition sees everyone give their family a ‘flood’ of books on Christmas Eve. Recreating the tradition over here doesn’t mean having to turn to Amazon. Take a look at the just-launched Bookshop.org, a site that makes online book shopping as easy as it is on Amazon, but with the added bonus of supporting local bookshops. Buy a novel from their website and the profits will either be donated in whole to a bookshop of your choice or pooled and evenly distributed among all the independent sellers who have signed up to the site. So far, over 250 independent bookshops across the country are involved.
Then there’s Hive.co.uk which sells ebooks and books, offering free postage plus a donation to a local bookshop. If you’re hoping for something a little more unique, check out Bloomsbury’s Persephone Books – the bricks and mortar shop of a publishing company – now offer 6 or 12 month book subscriptions, sending out a selection of their grey dust-jacketed editions of unsung or undervalued 20th century female writers direct to your door.
In the kitchen, there’s plenty of web-based alternatives to Amazon. For variety, you can’t go wrong with picking up a few pots of unusual ingredients at Sous Chef or browsing their kitchen accessories. From Mexican Achiote pepper paste to perfumed yuzu powder that’s perfect for dusting over seafood, the web-only shop stocks hard-to-find ingredients and specialist gift packs for food enthusiasts.
If you’re in the market for something a little bit fancier, take a gander at the Fine Food Specialists’ curation of haute cuisine picks. Or, for packaging wow-factor, log onto the The Red Beetle. Their beautifully packaged Italian foods, like Italiana Vera pop-art tinned goods and ergonomically-shaped Il Borgo del Balsamico vinegar, are imported direct from small producers in Italy.
For gifts with an educational edge, try brightminds.co.uk. Crafts4kids stock far more than crafts – despite the name. Not only is delivery speedy, they also sell Djeco – a fantastically designed and creative toy brand who make unusual gifts for all ages. For wooden gifts for baby and nursery-aged children, try Orange Tree Toys. And Britain’s most famous toy shop Hamleys also sells every toy under the sun from its online store.
Could it be time to wave goodbye to the Amazon Prime subscription? The BFI’s new home player feature allows anyone to rent one-off watches of latest releases from £2.50 or subscribe for £4.99 a month, giving access to a back catalogue of cult films. Similarly, Curzon – them of comfortable cinema seats and wine glasses in theatres fame – are now offering a home streaming service for all their latest indie flicks. In-cinema films are available for one-off rents, and if you’re a Curzon member, you’ll get access to Curzon12 – a 12-piece collection of monthly-changing films that are free to stream.
Pulling together the best of the UK’s planet-friendly homewares, Wearth proves that ethical purchases don’t have to mean big bucks. If you’re looking to bag homeware purchases for Christmas without Amazon’s carbon footprint, this is the place to check out.
Similarly, Aerende – a homeware store set up by former travel journalist Emily Mathieson – is putting social impact before profit, selling beautiful homeware made by UK individuals facing social challenges. They sell everything from scented candles and soaps to country-style bed linens and hand-throw pottery. For a more Amazon-esque experience take a look at Ethical Superstore which aims to bring together fairly-priced, fairly-made products under one banner.
Alternatively, you can browse the ever increasingly niche marketplaces popping up online that give direct access to artisans and makers, emphasising supporting independent sellers, rather than chasing cut-prices. If your normal go-to for a wall poster is Amazon, try Artfinder where you can direct from artists. Prices range from £10 prints to £50,000 bronze sculptures.
Do people buy clothes from Amazon? According to their best sellers’ list, it’s a thing. Whether you’re one of those oddballs (or you’re looking for an ethical switch from another big dog retailer) try turning to Project Cece, Europe’s biggest sustainable fashion online marketplace. Offering a curated collection of sustainable fashion brands, all the hard work of researching ethical shopping options is done for you by the clever team behind the platform. Brands are selected for their record on fair trade pricing, sustainable materials, vegan credentials, and production values. And don’t think those constraints put limitations on choice, either – there’s over 300 brands onsite. Prices tend to be a little higher than what you’ll find on Amazon but that’s, well, kind of the point. Fast fashion won’t fix the planet so if you’re dodging the big A for environmental reasons, this site should be your first port of call.
Amazon is a go-to for electrical odds and sods – but Richer Sounds offers all the top brands. The company is an employee-controlled trust and its in-shop teams across the UK are renowned for shunning the hard-sell tactics of other electronics stores. Instead, all you’ll find is a genuine enthusiasm for offering customers the best movie and music hardware available. It’s a living wave employer – and they run a not-for-profit organisation called Richer Unsigned which supports undiscovered musicians and artists.