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How to shop with meaning this 2020 holiday season

There’s no doubt about it.  This year is going to break all the records when it comes to online shopping.  For those of you who have been hesitant in the past to purchase over the internet, this is likely the year you’ll be dipping your toes into the ether.

From my perspective, I’ve always enjoyed the in-person shopping experience, especially when it involves the company of friends, festive decorations, and perhaps the promise of a rewarding glass of wine at the end of a busy day.  Not to mention the personal and tactile impact of being able to see, smell, touch and feel those special gift ideas.

This year will be different though, not just because of the way many of us will likely shop, but what we will shop for.  I’ve talked a lot about changing values in these challenging times, where smaller family units are experiencing a deeper connection with each other. I believe that gift-giving will reflect our changing values as well as finding true meaning behind our choices will take precedence over volume and mass consumption.

Even though many Canadians have experienced some kind of economic hardship during COVID, it is expected that holiday spending will remain on par or reduce only slightly vs. last year.  Much of this is because of severely reduced travel spending, and other savings as a result of working from home. 

And because of the significant shift to ecommerce, people are shopping earlier in order to beat the delivery rush. So, to help prepare you for the upcoming holiday season, I wanted to share some of the more interesting, and meaningful, gift ideas and approaches I have come across.

Shopping Local

Even though you might be ordering online, it doesn’t mean you can’t support your local small business.  In fact, the crisis has caused a renewed appreciation for small business owners and the incredible contribution they make to the fabric and culture of our communities. 

I’m fortunate to live in a village inside a big city that is filled with charming shops and amazing restaurants.  When I think of meaningful and personal gifts, I think of them.

For that friend or family member who loves the eclectic find, Skaut Design ( is a treasure trove.  Their shop is packed to the hilt one-of-a-kind vintage pieces as well as  luxury designer lines such as Riedel and Alessi.

If you are seeking to bring some joy to loved ones during what may be an isolated holiday this year, I’d recommend browsing through Collected Joy (  Two beautiful shops as well as a new online store are filled with amazing finds from local artisans and creators, and you can find everything from handmade jewellery to pottery, cozy throws and about the most amazing, funny and emotive greeting cards I’ve ever seen.

One of the biggest ways in which we are seeing values change is an increased desire for experiences. The simple joy of breaking bread (even if it’s over Zoom) with friends and family has become so important.  Restaurants are struggling with the pandemic and it’s especially difficult now that we are moving into cold weather.  A very original and frankly fabulous idea is to send someone a meal for the holidays.  Local restaurants have become adept at both delivery and curb-side pickup and we are no longer relegated to the big chain take-out spots – instead we can support local while at the same time enjoying home-made, and sometimes even gourmet food.  In our neighbourhood, Veloute Bistro ( a family owned, gourmet restaurant is the ultimate in take-out luxury dining.  My mouth literally waters at the thought of their seafood risotto and, take my word for it, they make the best Caesar salad in town!  Chef Fawzi is talented, kind and caring and they know how to deliver the personal touch.

No matter how creative you feel you need to be when it comes to gifts for others, sometimes there’s nothing more meaningful or personal than receiving a bouquet. And one of the best things about living in a village inside a big city is access to local flower stores.  In our case, our neighbourhood go-to is the iconic Kingston Road Flower Market ( which has been operating in the east end of Toronto for over 50 years now.  They feature a vast range of fresh cut flowers and plants and their friendly service includes great advice on how to arrange and preserve your selection.

And of course, we are also so grateful to those of who you have decided to support local Canadian businesses.  We started our business because it was important to us to add a little bit of beauty into people’s lives. And, because we don’t produce masses of inventory, every one of our outdoor art prints is custom created.  Whether our customers want to print a picture from their own special moments, or whether they are taken with the beauty and originality of the works included in our galleries, each print is produced just for them.  If you are thinking of giving a personal and meaningful gift to someone, but not sure exactly what they would like, consider a gift card from Off the Wall On the Fence.  We promise it will be the most original gift you will give this year.

Maybe these examples of amazing local shopping opportunities will give you some ideas in your own neighbourhood. Shop in (and with) Peace!

Lisa Hartley, Founder of Off the Wall On the Fence