It’s that time of year again—although holiday shopping this year looks different from holidays past.
The novel coronavirus has severely affected the U.S. economy, causing an economic recession and costing millions of Americans their jobs. The economic downturn has also hit small businesses. One study from the University of California Santa Cruz found that nearly 317,000 small businesses closed between February and September, or about 1,500 each day. Meanwhile, Amazon has doubled its net profit.
Despite the economic impacts of the pandemic, the National Retail Federation projects that holiday spending will grow between 3.6% and 5.2% this year. And while patronizing Amazon might get us the latest gadget at a reduced price, dozens of small businesses need your dollars more—especially those owned by people of color.
Historically, people of color in the United States have navigated unfair systemic and institutional disadvantages, including economic inequities. Genocide and forced removal of Native Americans, enslavement of Africans and African Americans, and the internment of Japanese Americans have all had lasting effects on the ability of these communities to build collective wealth.
Businesses owned by people of color are particularly vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19 because the pandemic has exacerbated the racial wealth gap, according to a September poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The survey found that 60% of Black U.S. households have reported serious financial problems, while 72% of Latino and 55% of Native American respondents are also facing financial problems.
These harsh realities offer all the more reason to shop at small, POC-owned businesses this holiday season. Here are eight to get you started.
Tea is a great gift for anyone, really. Owned by herbalist Shanae Jones, Ivy’s Tea Co. offers a number of herbal teas that can replace coffee, relieve flu symptoms, and even help with anxiety. Jones’ teas are organic and locally sourced. They also sell teacups for a good cause: a portion of the proceeds will go to Buy from a Black Woman, an organization that helps empower Black women entrepreneurs.
Founded by Native siblings Rico and Crystal Worl, Trickster Co. carries a variety of products, from clothing to jewelry to home goods. They aim to promote “innovative Indigenous design” with their products, with a focus on art of the Pacific Northwest cultures. Trickster company is part of a larger group of Native creatives whose work intends to “[push] the economy of Native art into the modern era.”
At the intersection of Native American history and pop culture is The NTVS (The Natives). Founded by Natives Aaron Silva and Sam Rosebear, this urban clothing and accessory company aims to preserve the importance of Native culture and history in today’s world. The NTVS’s team is made up of people from various tribes—even their artists and models are Indigenous. Some of the featured designs have deep meanings and address serious issues—like the “My culture is not a costume” shirt—while others are lighthearted and humorous—like the Stormtrooper helmet design with a Native twist. The company even offers a “stocking stuffers” tab on its website to make holiday shopping that much easier.
Nikkie Davis is a formerly licensed cosmetologist who started making her own skin care and bath products to help soothe her son’s eczema. She became passionate about creating products without harsh chemicals, and in 2010, Bubble Babez Bath Co. was born. She sells whipped body lotions, candles, facial oils, and so much more. All of her products are cruelty-free and handmade—sometimes you can even watch her make and test products on her Instagram stories.
Instead of buying books from large retailers, consider buying from smaller local bookstores, like this Philadelphia-based store. Uncle Bobbie’s has a curated selection of books for people of all ages, and its mission is “to provide underserved communities with access to books and a space where everyone feels valued.”
Alexis Tellefsen makes handmade, small-batch ceramics out of her studio in New York. She offers mugs, plates, pots, candleholders, and more, all beautifully crafted in her simplistic and elegant style.
Based in rural New Jersey, the family that started Zach & Zoë Sweet Bee Farm initially set out to help their son’s asthma using raw honey, and became fascinated with beekeeping. After months of research, they decided to take the plunge and become a family of beekeepers. Now, the family sells all different kinds of honey on their site, including lavender, ginger root, and even matcha.
Shop textiles, accessories, and even face masks at Show & Tell, a queer Black-womxn-owned shop. The shop provides a curated collection of sustainably made products alongside its handcrafted collections including pillows, scarves, apparel, and more.
This article is an updated version of a YES! article published in 2018.
Ayu Sutriasa is the digital editor at YES!, where she edits stories in the health and wellness beat, in addition to specializing in gender and body politics. She currently lives on unceded Duwamish territory, also known as Seattle, Washington. She speaks English and French. Find more of her writing on Substack.