10 Survival Tips for Holiday Shopping
Swarms of shoppers. Bumper-to-bumper traffic. Shopping is not for the fainthearted this time of year, especially not at Hamilton Place, the largest shopping complex in Tennessee or in the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg shopping mecca.
The bargains couldn’t be greater, but you need a shopper’s survival guide.
Survival Rule No. 1: Begin with a good attitude. Wherever you go throughout East Tennessee, merchants do their best to ensure a positive shopping experience. They hand out free gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate or offer wine and cheese at evening events, such as downtown Knoxville’s First Friday gallery stroll. So, immerse yourself in piped-in holiday music and elaborate decorations while you wait in lines at the checkout counter.
Survival Rule No. 2: Enjoy the thrill of the chase. To get the best deals, do your research. Print out online coupons for the Crossville Outlet Center, home to 30 outlet stores. Pick up Sevierville’s Smoky Mountain Coupon Book at the Sevierville Visitor Center on Highway 66. Use your smartphone to download an app to learn about sales and access coupons from major outlets, like Sevierville’s Tanger Five Oaks Factory Outlet, the largest authentic outlet center in the state. You can get designer items at very reasonable prices.
Survival Rule No. 3: Time your adventure. For big savings, be there when the doors open for holiday sales. Or if you prefer less stress, avoid the frenzy by shopping mid-week when fewer people are in shops. For a tourist destination such as the Smokies, the heaviest traffic flows away on Sunday afternoon, so come in when crowds go out. Map out where to start shopping and where to stop so you don’t do any backtracking.
Survival Rule No. 4: Work as a team. Bring a shopping buddy to help you spot bargains and share in the “buy one, get one free.” You can make this a fun time with friends: swap fishing stories at Bass Pro Shop in Kodak, admire the selection at Smoky Mountain Knife works in Sevierville, or catch the sales at Kingsport Town and the Mall at Johnson City.
Survival Rule No. 5: Choose your hotel near the shopping action. That way you won’t waste time in traffic and you can go back to stash the loot and rest your feet. More than 30 hotels cluster around Chattanooga’s Hamilton Place with several offering package deals and coupon booklets. The Fairfield Inn Five Oaks and the Oak Tree Lodge are situated directly across from Tanger Five Oaks. No parking worries!
Survival Rule No. 6: Pick a place and stay awhile. Shopping areas such as Pigeon Forge’s Old Mill Square offer a nice variety of shops and eateries. You can go on foot to Pigeon River Pottery and Farmhouse Kitchen, before refueling at the Old Mill Pottery House Café and Grille. Gatlinburg’s Glades Road arts and crafts community has more than two dozen artisan studios and shops on an 8-mile loop along Route 321. The trendy boutiques and restaurants on Chattanooga’s Frazier Avenue give locals many reasons to visit the Northshore area, just as they love downtown’s Warehouse Row, where shops such as Revival keep them coming back.
Survival Rule No. 7: Look for small specialty shops where you can find authentic, one-of-a-kind gifts and garments. Historic downtowns, such as Jonesborough, Johnson City, Sweetwater, Athens and Loudon have locally owned shops for antiques, jewelry, crafts, quilts, and clothing. You get personalized service in the bargain. Niche places like Smoky Mountain Guitars in Pigeon Forge have the real deal, not tourist souvenirs.
Survival Rule No. 8: Binge on bin shopping. Old-fashioned stores like Hammer’s in Clinton keep their stock in bins, so you will have to dig to find your prize. Other locations are in Wartburg, Winchester, Sevierville and Knoxville. Merchants at flea markets and secondhand stores also spill their goods in bins and across rummage tables. Low prices are guaranteed, so you will come out ahead.
Survival Rule No. 9: Expand your shopportunities with seasonal events. The Holiday Market at the Chattanooga Convention Center will offer many locally made items not sold in malls or traditional markets. For three weekends starting Dec. 7, 2013, about 200 vendors will sell crafts, photography, jewelry and gourmet foods. The Great Smoky Christmas Arts and Craft Show, set for Dec. 2-8, 2013 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, is a favorite.
Survival Rule No.10: Stay fortified with energy drinks, but also take time to relax and truly enjoy the day of retail therapy. Look for discount coupons for food and drinks. Enjoy a hearty meal to boost stamina so you won’t be a casualty of shop ’til you drop!
What are your holiday shopping tips?