According to a recent informal poll conducted by the Sterling team, downtown small businesses are the preferred Christmas shopping destination among our friends in Montana.
This preference isn’t surprising, as downtown areas, whether big or small, throughout the Big Sky state go all out to transform holiday shopping into a festive and enjoyable experience. The streets are adorned with sparkling lights and festive decorations, and some businesses even offer wine and cheese to boost the holiday spirit.
In an era where big-box stores can dominate retail shopping by providing value and a one-stop shop, convenience seems to be a key factor for consumers. However, over the past five years, there has been a surge in alternatives to in-person shopping, with the ease of ordering anything from chicken nuggets to a 6-carat diamond necklace using a cell phone and credit card.
Despite the rise of online shopping, 71% of consumers report shopping in-store more frequently than before the onset of COVID-19, according to a recent survey from Mood Media. This suggests that, while convenience is essential, there’s still a significant demand for the in-person shopping experience.
Mood Media found that factors such as a friendly and knowledgeable staff, an uncluttered layout, and the ability to see, touch, and smell products are crucial to consumers. This is where the advantage of small businesses on Main Streets across Montana becomes evident—they offer the kind of personalized and immersive shopping experience that consumers desire.
Montana’s locally owned stores, characterized by friendly and knowledgeable staff, well-organized layouts, and a variety of sensory experiences, create an enjoyable shopping environment. They establish critical connections within the community and offer a unique shopping experience that larger retailers may lack.
Those connections allow retailers to shape the merchandise and services they offer. For example, the Country Store in Stevensville (look for the big yellow dog) recently added fishing and camping gear to their well curated selection of hardware, tools and everything needed to keep animals from mice to mustangs well fed and healthy.
As the holiday season approaches, consider visiting your favorite local store to fulfill your shopping needs. These small businesses have dedicated years to perfecting the art of making shopping not just a task but a genuinely enjoyable and community-driven experience.