1. Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
Bronner’s is a family-owned, year-round Christmas store that serves up to ten thousand customers every day in its 300,000 square feet of retail space in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Making the trip out to see the actual store is an event in itself, and Yelp users extoll the virtues of the company’s friendly staff and extraordinary selection of Christmas items, while those at Trip Advisor love the free ornament personalization and the store’s outdoor lights. If you can’t make it to the store in person you can shop Bronner’s huge inventory online.
Once thought of primarily as an online bookseller, Amazon.com now sells thousands of products in dozens of categories. Customers seem to love it, too: A consumer survey conducted after the 2012 holiday season named Amazon the “most satisfying website to shop.” With discounts on many items and free shipping on orders over $25, Amazon can also help you maintain your holiday budget.
Shapeways is a 3D printing outfit that you can use on demand to create custom gift items. 3D printers create three-dimensional objects using a wide variety of materials, from ceramic to fabric, all based on a computer-generated design. You can choose to design your gift yourself and have Shapeways print it, or opt to purchase items created by others. Popular gift choices include candleholders, figurines, and even jewelry. Popular tech site Mashable choses its 14 favorite gift items from the Shapeways shop, which include an iPod Nano watch and a tiny planter that goes on your bicycle. TheNextWeb names Shapeways as one of the most unconventional places to shop for holiday gifts. If you’re shopping for anyone who loves technology and unusual things, this is a terrific place to look for the perfect gift.
4. Local Stores
What treasures does your own town hold? Local shops often offer unique products and personal attention. You can also avoid the hassles of parking and fighting the crowds you’ll experience at malls. If you like to consider the impact of your purchases, when you shop locally you support small businesses and infuse money into the local economy. Take a drive or a walk through the shopping areas of your town, or if you’re looking for something specific, try finding a local business online.
5. Fat Brain Toys
Fat Brain Toys is a family-owned online toy store with one retail outlet in Elkhorn, Nebraska. They have a focus on educational toys that are also engaging and fun for kids to play with. They carry mainstream toy brands such as Lego, Klutz, and Uncle Milton, as well as smaller, independent brands that offer unique products. Customers at Yelp love the free gift wrapping, “top notch” customer service, and selection of toys you won’t find elsewhere. Award-winning toy designer Mari Richards lists this company as one of her favorite online toy shops. Fat Brain Toys ships anywhere in the world, and offers $3.99 flat rate shipping within the continental United States.
6. High End Department Stores and Specialty Shops
If money is no object, top of the line department stores can be great places to shop for holiday gifts, especially if you’re a last-minute shopper. Shopping in-store offers a more personalized experience than big-box retailers, and, as the Christian Science Monitor notes, these stores offer free shipping if you prefer to shop online. As Christmas Day approaches, many of them even offer free expedited shipping so your gifts are sure to arrive on time. Try Barney’s New York which Trip Advisor users praise for the selection of designer clothing and shoes, or for something really special or try Tiffany & Co. which gets top marks from Fodor’s.
Electronics are always hot sellers for the holidays. If you’re in the market for electronics and want to shop online, Crutchfield should be your first destination. This retailer was given high ratings from Consumer Reports for its “live chat and phone consultations with ‘personal advisers.'” PCMag agrees, naming Crutchfield one of the 5 Best Online Electronics Retailers. The site offers free lifetime tech support on all purchases, as well as free shipping, and a three-day delivery window on many items.
Warehouse clubs like Costco may not be your first choice when it comes to shopping for Christmas gifts, but for certain types of purchases their prices can be hard to beat. This is especially true of gift cards, which you can get for less than face value for popular cards such as iTunes, restaurants, and video game networks. You can also get great prices on seasonal decorations and trinkets, which make nice gifts for co-workers or classmates. Of all the warehouse club retailers, Costco is the highest rated for customer service by Consumer Reports. You can shop online or visit one of their retail locations, as long as you first purchase a membership.
9. Dean & DeLuca
Dean & DeLuca offers a great selection of gourmet gift options, but at Christmas time it’s hard to beat their selection of gift baskets. The Huffington Post and The Charlotte Observer both praise the baskets, which you can order pre-made or put together yourself. Shop online or at one of their retail locations in New York, Washington D.C., Kansas City, Charlotte, or Napa Valley. If you have a foodie on your Christmas gift list, these baskets are sure to please.
10. Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog
While it’s fantasy gifts like the $30,000 dragon topiary that always get press, the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog is a great source for high-end products like furs and designer fashion and more down-to-earth luxury items like cashmere socks. According to the Wall Street Journal, “(a)t any price level, the Neiman Marcus holiday catalog attracts customers’ attention.” Subscribe to get the Christmas book delivered to your door for $15 per year, or you can shop online or in one of their many retail stores.