During the month of December, you'll typically find two types of holiday shoppers — the ones who have already checked every box on their shopping list by Cyber Monday. And those who, days before Christmas, are rushing to big-box stores and searching for last-minute gifts that might make their loved ones feel special.
But retailers are finding a new type of shopper in both categories: the socially-conscious one. Consumers are giving back, and they’re doing so through their purchase power. According to the National Retail Federation, seven in 10 holiday shoppers this season plan to engage in charitable activity, and many are choosing to look at brands, products and retailers who focus on issues such as equal pay, environmentally conscious manufacturing, human trafficking, responsible farming practices and more.
But where do these consumers shop? Sometimes at large retail leaders in the socially conscious space, those like ZADY or Warby Parker who have baked corporate social responsibility into their mission since birth. But often, shoppers are looking to small, authentic and ethically minded businesses in their own community — events like Good Makers Market, a biannual market that serves as a hub for Nashville-based, socially responsible brands.
“Nashville is extremely lucky to have some amazing social-purpose companies here in our city,” says Gradi Ellis, marketing and creative lead for the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. “And a lot of these products you’d buy at Target or Walmart anyway. Why not just buy from companies that are in turn putting money back into something — whether it’s helping employ people locally or around the world or putting back into the earth by supporting [sustainability]?”
Good Makers Market, which took place in November, hosted 22 social-purpose companies, all of which can be found on the Good Makers Market website for last-minute holiday browsing and shopping.
Shannon Gygi was one of them. Representing Freedom’s Promise, a nonprofit focused on providing women survivors of human trafficking with the opportunity to escape slavery, Gygi arranged handmade pashminas, tote bags and lunch boxes made of non-recyclable rice bags on the company’s table.
“Nashville has an incredible array of socially conscious businesses making beautiful products that are really high quality,” Gygi, the director of community engagement for Freedom’s Promise, says. “Where our dollars go says a lot about where our hearts are. There’s so much within the supply chain that there's a push now to make sure the chains are free of exploitation. And there’s a demand.”
Humphreys Street Coffee, also represented at Good Makers Market, is a social enterprise of Harvest Hands community development that focuses on providing employment to local high school students from the Napier neighborhood. “One of the major downfalls [of Napier] is the lack of opportunity,” Humphreys Street Coffee's Cailey Damron says. “These students are all great kids. They just don’t have a lot of opportunities at their fingertips. I think there is so much more personal investment that comes along with buying something that you know the story of. That’s why companies like Toms, ones that profess their mission, do so well. People are drawn to story and change and doing things differently — for good.”
Damron says she and others from Humphreys Street participate in markets like Good Makers to teach students the importance of responsibility and place them in situations during which they can learn to interact with customers.
“Having them get that experience and interact is great,” she says. “And being a part of a community of people in Nashville who have the same mindset of doing good and giving back, we get so much support for our business and our students that way.”