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How Islanders are dealing with the rising cost of Christmas

Handmade local gifts like pottery are high on the list for some Islanders this year. (Stacey Janzer/CBC News - image credit)
Handmade local gifts like pottery are high on the list for some Islanders this year. (Stacey Janzer/CBC News - image credit)

A recent report from the Retail Council of Canada says Atlantic Canadians will spend more this holiday season than elsewhere in the country. That's $1,100, compared to about $900 for the average Canadian.

But not all Islanders are ready to be grouped into that statistic.

"I think it's about being intentional, just trying to stay within reason," said Christine Beck, who was out shopping at the P.E.I. Maker's Market on Saturday. "Supporting local is so important right now. So coming here is part of that."

The Retail Council of Canada report agrees, finding that 82 per cent of shoppers will make an effort to buy locally.

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Melissa MacKinnon, who was shopping alongside Beck at the market, says her family and friends are focusing on mindful gift-giving this year.

Christine Beck and Melissa MacKinnon say they're just about done their holiday shopping.
Christine Beck and Melissa MacKinnon say they're just about done their holiday shopping.

Christine Beck and Melissa MacKinnon say they're just about done their holiday shopping. (Stacey Janzer/CBC News)

"Something people either use daily like beautiful pottery, or treats like those beautiful cookies, a piece of jewelry, something that's a sentiment that you can keep year round," she said. "And buying quality items I think as opposed to just excess, disposable items."

MacKinnon is among many Islanders who have already finished up their shopping lists, in line with the Retail Council of Canada's findings that 28 per cent of Canadians began their holiday shopping as far back as August.

"My shopping list is all checked off today is the sort of extra, the sprinkles on top," she said.

Hard to find in person

But it's not always easy to find that perfect gift. A few years ago, Alberton's Rebecca Rafuse began unashamedly using Amazon when she couldn't find something in a nearby store.

"Not everybody has the means to travel into Summerside or Charlottetown, for all the sales," she says. "My family, we usually shop biweekly. So if something's on sale this week and you didn't get it last week because it wasn't on sale, you might not be able to just run in and grab it."

Rafuse is an Amazon affiliate now, meaning she gets a small cut from some orders placed through her link. Rafuse shares items that are on sale through her social media, including her Bargains with Becca Facebook page.

Jodi McLaughlin and Erika McNeice say this year is the best for sales out of the past three years.
Jodi McLaughlin and Erika McNeice say this year is the best for sales out of the past three years.

Jodi McLaughlin and Erika McNeice say this year is the best for sales out of the past three years. (Stacey Janzer/CBC News)

"I personally buy a lot of our dry groceries, cereals and things like that. They tend to be cheaper on Amazon anyways, so I like to buy them when they're on sale and I try to stock up a little bit," she says.

That's important at a time when 80 per cent of Canadians are struggling with their finances, according to the Retail Council of Canada.

Because of the affiliate links, Rafuse can keep track of people's spending habits. This year, they're going more toward necessities.

This time of year there are toys on many lists. Rafuse says a lot of people are buying smaller toys, but there are still some popular big-ticket items people are buying online.

Rafuse says she understands the need to support local, but for many in her shoes, it's not always possible.

"There's going to be stuff on people's Christmas list, especially kids for kids and teenagers that you can't buy locally as easily," she said. "So, I know a lot of people are happy to find a deal on Amazon because of that."

Keeping local alive

It's been busy for vendors at the markets. Erika McNiece, Lawrencetown Candle Company in Nova Scotia, says this is the busiest year since before COVID.

"We're transplants from Ontario," said McNiece, who was on P.E.I. for her first time at the Maker's Market. "We moved here about seven years ago and the buy-local culture on the East Coast is like hands down."

LiliAnne Webster says she has a lot of customers at her booth looking for local gifts this year.
LiliAnne Webster says she has a lot of customers at her booth looking for local gifts this year.

LiliAnne Webster says she has a lot of customers at her booth looking for local gifts this year. (Stacey Janzer/CBC News)

LiliAnne Webster, who was selling textiles and cards at the market, says she's getting lots of interest in the locally made goods.

"It's just lovely to get that kind of encouragement from people in the area, it's wonderful," she said.

Her own Christmas shopping was a combination of local and big-box stores.

"My Christmas shopping is almost done," she said. "I think we're probably spending less this year in our household. We have a very specific plan of what we're gonna do, and cutting way back."

Mckenzie Wilson says she came to shop local at the market for pottery gifts for her family.
Mckenzie Wilson says she came to shop local at the market for pottery gifts for her family.

Mackenzie Wilson says she came to shop local at the market for pottery gifts for her family. (Stacey Janzer/CBC News)

But not everyone was cutting back. Mackenzie Wilson went to the Maker's Market to stock up on pottery since her favourite ceramics artist is moving away.

"Everybody's getting mugs for Christmas," she said.