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2020 will usher in a holiday season like no other — and a shopping season that will be just as unique. Here are tips to help you check all your items off your list, stay safe and support the local businesses you love — all at the same time.

The holidays may look a little different this year — but you can still celebrate the season. Thoughtful gifts can go a long way to creating memorable moments this holiday — even if it’s experienced virtually.

When it comes to holiday shopping, many consumers and small businesses are facing uncharted territory. Stores may face inventory shortages. Some regions may have additional restrictions and lockdowns in place, and deliveries may take longer to arrive.

If you’re used to shopping last-minute, it may be worth revisiting your approach. Here are some shopping guidelines that can help you check those important gifts off your list.

1. Get a head start

A recent report from the Retail Council of Canada indicates that many Canadians have already started (or finished!) their holiday shopping. Combine early bird shoppers with shipping disruptions, and some products can be very difficult to come by (think bicycles, video game systems and pyjamas). If you have a specific gift in mind, avoid the potential disappointment and get them early.

2. Shop online (but still early!)

Depending on where you live, you may be faced with shopping restrictions or even temporary business closures. Doing a lot of your shopping online lets you get around line ups and lockdowns. But keep in mind, many Canadians are taking this route. According to a Google survey, 65 per cent of Canadians who plan to shop this year will do more of their spending online than in previous years. While curbside and in-store pick up options are available, most of those items will be shipped to our doorsteps, putting a strain on delivery systems. Shopping well in advance leaves you more time for your packages to arrive in time.

3. Stick to your region

Temporary lockdowns are in place in specific regions across the country, which means non-essential businesses in those areas have had to close their doors for a designated period of time. While it might be tempting to take a drive out to a neighbouring region that isn’t in lockdown, it’s wise to stay within your community. After all, the intent is to keep people in these hot zones as close to home as possible.

4. Support local businesses

Small businesses have had a tough time this year, but they are resilient! Many have come up with innovative ways to continue serving customers. For instance, even the smallest of businesses have quickly added a digital component to their store, allowing customers to shop online with delivery or curbside pick up. Others have joined virtual shopping communities — these are online hubs that profile local businesses and enable those who can’t necessarily afford to build an e-commerce solution on their own do so with the support of others. Hometown Hub, Bag of Toronto, Mommunity, the One of a Kind Show and Shop Local Canada are some examples of virtual communities that make it easy to shop locally, online.

2020 has been a year of adapting to new ways of living, learning, working and celebrating. This holiday season, tweaking your shopping strategy can help you support local businesses, and may make it easier to find meaningful gifts that will bring smiles to the faces of the people you love.