Every year, eager shoppers descend upon holiday markets around the globe on a quest to find unique, hand-crafted and personalized gifts from a variety of artisanal vendors. Urban public spaces like parks and common grounds transform into seasonal winter villages overflowing with festive trimmings and unmistakable merriment.
These temporary pop-up shops are a draw for consumers who crave in-person holiday shopping experiences. Although e-commerce is rapidly growing and accounts for 9 percent of retail sales in the U.S. today, brick-and-mortars and pop-up vendors provide a hands-on, physical experience that shoppers can’t get from a simple keystroke on a laptop or a tap on a smartphone. Seeing, touching and handling merchandise provide sensory elements that can’t be achieved digitally.
Despite the changes in our industry, there is an appeal to seeing and touching merchandise in person.
“Despite the changes in our industry, there is an appeal to seeing and touching merchandise in person and being able to engage with fellow human beings that has yet to go away,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a release. “Even younger shoppers see the value of the store.”
Plus, holiday markets offer bespoke gifts that large retailers typically don’t carry. Finding those one-of-a-kind pieces are what keep shoppers coming back time and time again.
“It’s like a treasure hunt,” says Melina Cordero, America’s head of retail research told Blueprint. “Consumers really want that choice and variety. With pop-ups and temporary retail—like the Chelsea Market model—you don’t know what you’re going to get, and that’s exciting,” says Cordero.
To satisfy shoppers who enjoy the thrill of the search, we’ve rounded up some of the best holiday markets around the country where scoring the perfect present captures the true meaning of thoughtful, purposeful gift-giving.
NEW YORK CITY
Steps away from the bright lights of Time Square, in the heart of Manhattan, Bryant Park’s Holiday Shops are a must for shoppers who want to purchase gifts made by locals and artisans from around the globe. From handmade jewelry to whimsical screen-printed t-shirts for kids, patrons can pick up exclusive pieces that recipients will appreciate. Come hungry because the open-air European-inspired market features dozens of eateries to satisfy your taste buds as you tour the winter wonderland. Also, if ice skating is on your holiday to-do list, there’s a 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink—the only free admission one in the city to get your glide on.
When: Now through January 2, 2019; Monday – Friday: 11am-8pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10am-8pm*
*Select Shops are open on major holidays. After Thanksgiving, Shops are open until 9pm daily.
Where: Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan.
Inspired by the 16th century Christkindlmarket in Nuremberg, Germany, Christkindlmarket is the Windy City’s premier outdoor holiday market. Located in the heart of the city’s downtown Loop, the popular attraction takes place on the courtyard of the Richard J. Daley Plaza. Each year, more than 1 million visitors from all over gather to score luxury gifts and delicious baked goods to give to friends and family. Since 1995, the German tradition has become synonymous with holiday shopping in the Second City.
When: November 16, 2018 – December 24, 2018; Sunday – Thursday, 11AM – 8PM
Friday – Saturday, 11AM – 9PM
Where: 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
Consumers really want that choice and variety. With pop-ups and temporary retail—like the Chelsea Market model—you don’t know what you’re going to get, and that’s exciting.
Nestled in the heart of Philadelphia’s freshly renovated LOVE Park, Christmas Village is a beloved annual holiday treat for shoppers from near and far. Featuring more than 80 outdoor vendors in charming wooden booths selling handmade holiday gifts and authentic European foods of the season, the yuletide shopping extravaganza is designed to recreate the community charm and winter wonder of a traditional outdoor Christmas market in Germany. The jolly atmosphere that locals have come to love year after year—complete with twinkling Christmas lights, boughs of holly and live holiday music—offers a fun shopping experience for all.
When: November 22, 2018 – December 24, 2018
Where: Love Park, 1500 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
SoWa Winter Festival
Shoppers can skip mass-produced gifts and pick up thoughtful handmade ones at the 4th Annual SoWa Winter Festival. Over two consecutive weekends, shoppers can get a dose of holiday cheer while scratching off their gift lists. From paintings to specialty hot sauces, those seeking unique buys will be in for a treat at this holiday village comprised of more than 70 vendors. Located in the vibrant art district in the city’s South End neighborhood, the market is the perfect shopping spot for the community of creatives and entrepreneurs.
When: November 30, 2018: 5 pm – 9 pm; December 1, 2018: 11 am – 7 pm; Sunday, December 2, 2018: 11 am – 5 pm
December 7, 2018: 5 pm – 9 pm; December 8, 2018: 11 am – 7 pm; Sunday, December 9, 2018: 11 am – 5 pm
Where: 540 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA
Pearl Holiday Night Market
A former brewery dating back to 1883, Pearl’s 22-acre grounds have been restored and revitalized into a lively mix of restaurants, shops, and office and residential spaces. During the holiday season, part of the area converts into the Holiday Night Market where patrons can check out goods from local craft vendors. From fine chocolates to festive decorations, shoppers can find high-quality wares to wow everyone on their holiday lists.
When: Every Thursday starting November 29, December 6, December, December 13 and December 20, 2018; 4pm-8pm
Where: Pearl Park at Pearl 312 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, TX
Photo Credit: Eric James Walsh