With Black Friday around the corner, it’s tempting to log on at the crack of dawn and help to line Jeff Bezos’ growing, probably gold-plated, billionaire pockets. I know that everyone’s situation is different so am not casting judgement, however, I wanted to offer some alternative options if you are in a position to shop around. Today I’m sharing some of my own favourite Manchester and Lancashire-based independent businesses.
I haven’t been asked, gifted or paid to feature any of these links – they’re simply tried and tested sellers that I find myself repeatedly gravitating back to. There’s also no theme to this post, no restrictive or obscure categories; it’s simply one big mash-up of the smaller local businesses I like to use when I want to treat myself or my loved ones, especially around Christmastime, and I know that they all truly appreciate each and every sale. If you have any you’d like to add, please do leave a comment below.
*all images featured are from sellers own websites/social media channels
I grew up spending my weekends in Afflecks so when I spotted that Lauren had opened an eco-friendly shop on the third floor, I couldn’t wait to pop by. There is also the option to shop online, which is handy given the current lockdown. Crammed with goods such as soaps, books, vegan snacks (including a banging pick n mix section), refillable cosmetics, reusable period products, pet treats, skincare and loads more, Lauren also plants a tree for each sale made.
From fun, modern hoop art to personalised celebratory keepsakes, embroidery kits and supplies, Natalie has it all. She hosts classes and tutorials, both online and in-person around the Greater Manchester area (COVID-depending of course) and is always happy to answer any questions. Natalie is also an all-round lovely, hilarious and talented human being. Why not treat yourself to a festive beginners kit to help ward off lockdown boredom?
Chocolate is always a winner for me and I love the quirky detail of these bars. From Lego and Disney to artisanal and horror-themed creations, these bars are totally unique and taste as good as they look. The Elf, Home Alone and Nightmare Before Christmas ones make brilliantly festive stocking fillers.
Bits and Bobs by Meg offer hand-dyed loungewear in an array of colour combinations, socks, resin artwork, candles and personalised frames. The keyrings and Nike socks make brilliant little stocking fillers and the bespoke frames and trinkets are lovely keepsakes. They also run regular giveaways and spontaneous discounts via social media so make sure you give them a follow below.
You may have already spotted one or two of Mancsy’s pieces dotted around the city in various forms. They create bold artwork with a Mancunian theme. Since 2012, they’ve hosted monthly games of ‘Finders Keepers’ where you could get your hands on hidden limited edition screenprints by following clues posted on social media. This has been paused due to COVID-restrictions, however, they sell prints online (we have the Pankhurst one in our dining room). Mancsy also does some brilliant work in the local community, especially around homelessness.
With intricate, elegant designs and fresh bakes, Vedia and her team at Lilli Oliver create next-level magical treats all year round. They also share handy recipes and online tutorials so you can create your own goodies at home.
Cherry Makes Well began when Hannah wanted to gift her niece and nephew something different for Christmas after seeing them overwhelmed with presents. She created a scratch card with tailored experiences that the children could reveal each month, making treasured memories together. These can be personalised for couples date nights, family outings to suit your budget etc. Hannah also offers beautiful Christmas Eve plates for little ones to leave snacks out for Father Christmas.
A far cry from the usual bland DIY shop tile offerings, Tile Productions create stunning tiles, using the leftover materials to make decorations, mugs, jars, jewellery and more. I met Lisa almost a decade ago at a local craft fair and was drawn to the gothic Christmas tags. Then we bumped into each other again at a tattoo convention in Manchester, bonded firmly over crafts, cats and all things rockabilly and I’ve been placing orders ever since.
Aisling Chou – designer and jewellery maker focused on precious metals and iridescent paper
My jewellery collection is primarily made up of dainty trinkets inspired by nature and Aisling’s gorgeous creations always find a place on my Christmas list. I love the materials and textures and each item is handmade in their studio by the River Irwell.
Aside from the fact that this is one of my favourite buildings to look at in Shudehill, Paramount Books has been around since 1965 and sell pretty much any reading material that your heart could possibly desire. They have thousands of titles and comics on their website, from rare collectables to everyday reads. If you see something you like, or even if you don’t but have a specific request, give them a ring and they’ll be able to help.
Last summer, my dear friend Claire took me to a Booze and Burn candle making workshop at the Seven Bro7hers brewery in Salford for my birthday. By repurposing old beer and wine bottles, Sophie and her team create beautiful hand-poured vegan-friendly soy candles and help re-use waste from bars and restaurants in the process. The indulgent, rich scents last for ages too.
Gail’s work emits plenty of retro vibes and features a ton of my own favourite things, like cats, outer space and bold florals. Her colourful patterns are instantly recognisable. I love the typewriter prints too, which can be personalised to add whatever lyrics or words you choose, creating beautiful, thoughtful gifts this Christmas.
Based in Spinningfields, Hey Little Cupcake has been my go-to cupcakery for as long as I can remember. The brownie and afternoon tea postal boxes have come in especially handy this year when I’ve wanted to send loved ones a tasty treat or birthday gift during lockdown.
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for plants. So much so that when it comes to gift-giving, Adam now just skips the flower deliveries and tells me to send him links to whatever plants are on my current wish list (the next one is a Polka Dot Begonia). Amy set up Little Pot Houseplants after being made redundant during the pandemic and offers some great advice and support on plant care.
Cally sells the prettiest celestial-themed necklaces; as someone who loves all things space/astrology related, they’re right up my street. The jewellery is reasonably priced compared to similar brands and the chains are dainty enough for layering up so you can easily mix and match.
The Kat’s Whiskers – printable custom designs that make the perfect gift for Christmas and beyond
Kathryn creates bespoke artwork that you can download and either print at home or use to make your own Christmas cards or gifts online. There’s the option for you to mix and match accessories, colours and wording to make your gift truly personalised.
The Simple Things – an independent monthly magazine all about slowing down, taking time to live well and remembering what’s important
Ok, so this one isn’t based in the North West but I want to add it in as a wild card anyway. This magazine is something I look forward to reading every single month. Featuring wholesome content, feel-good news, short stories, nature, recipes, micro-adventures, personal insights, wellbeing, sustainable living and more, this publication inexplicably feels like home. The writing, photography and general aesthetics are always a joy and it feels like receiving a big hug from an old friend every time my copy lands on the doormat. Billed at £13.25 per quarter, the subscription option makes for a lovely, ongoing gift.