10 Tiny Sites For Huge Online Holiday Shopping

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's late in the season, but you're nowhere near your last chance to finish up your holiday shopping.

ComScore (SCOR) is already predicting that the $42.3 billion spent online last holiday season will grow this year by 14%, to $48.1 billion. Despite an otherwise sluggish shopping season, online shoppers have come through by increasing their online Thanksgiving spending 21%, from $633 million in 2011 to $766 million this year. Black Friday shopping put 15% more weight in Santa's sleigh by boosting online spending from $1.04 billion last year to $1.2 billion during this year's event. Amazon (AMZN) came out on top yet again, but Wal-Mart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY), Target (TGT) and eBay (EBAY) rounded out the Top 5.

We still haven't made it through all the big online shopping days yet. Cyber Monday sales jumped 18%, to $1.7 billion -- outpacing Black Friday's online total -- while Green Monday spending outpaced last year's total by 10%, bringing in $1.4 billion. That still leaves Free Shipping Day on the table for Wednesday, which is no small deal considering the more than $1 billion in online shopping done on that holiday last year neared Black Friday territory and was more flush than even this year's Thanksgiving spending.

There's a reason online outlets are reaping all the rewards. All together, the 38% of American consumers who did their holiday shopping online in 2004 has grown to roughly 52% this year, according to surveys from the National Retail Federation. Meanwhile, the percentage of those shunning online shopping has dropped from 23.5% to less than 16% during that span. Free shipping offers and online coupons help, but so do mobile devices that make it easy to place an online order without being lashed to the desk or couch.

All that said, online shopping still represents a small market with big potential. The Department of Commerce notes that online purchases make up only about 6% of retail sales, but small retailers should see that as a chance to elbow into the big guys' territory a bit. We've been highlighting small, quirky sites around the holidays for several years now, so just consider the following 10 online shops the continuation of a growing holiday tradition:


Well, that does it. This site confirmed what those living in Brooklyn's Western, subway adjacent, stroller-strewn neighborhoods have known for some time: Big swaths of Brooklyn are now a mall. Not that gaudy, logo-laden, wide-aisled mall from wherever they lived before they came to Brooklyn, mind you, but a boutique-filled corridor of brownstones where the shops look like a dream sequence from a Nancy Meyers movie and the air smells of a coffee shop bake sale. Remarkably, a decreasing amount U.S. shoppers can actually afford to live this experience and would be horrified by what their rent check would get them if they could. That's where Strolby comes in. Dreamed up by Brooklynite-by-way-of-San Antonio, Texas, Lara Fitch and her New Jersey business partner Sima Patel, Strolby takes goods from some of the pairs favorite shops and makes them available to the masses -- with free ground shipping for orders of $50 or more. Want a box of whoopie pies from One Girl Cookies in DUMBO? Thirty dollars. Want that perfect little polka dot dress from A Lovely Universe in Boerum Hill? Sixty-nine dollars. Need a flask for your single-gear bike from Milley & Earl in Williamsburg? Twenty-five dollars. While Strolby presents a very small window onto life in Brooklyn -- basically a shop window -- it's a lovely little cheat sheet of the small shops that have helped residents fill out their gift lists for years. Minus the subway ride or the high percentage of your paycheck handed over for rent, it's even more ideal.


We've used this Englewood, Colo.-based shop as a source before, but it makes an even better boutique for anyone whose love of video games falls about a generation behind the current crop. JJGames offers Sony  (SNE) PlayStation 3 and Microsoft  (MSFT) XBox 360 consoles and games, but its wheelhouse is in the early 2000s or before. Want a complete, original Nintendo Entertainment System and your pick of some of its best games? You've got it. Missed out on the Sega Genesis the first time around and want to go through its games cheaply and without having to use a keyboard or touchscreen as a controller? Game on. From neglected consoles such as Nintendo's Gamecube and Sega's Saturn to the immensely popular but recently discontinued PlayStation 2, JJGames is retro gamers' reassurance it won't be game over for their favorite systems for a good, long time. When the shop offers free shipping on all U.S. orders for the first time ever, as it has this holiday season, everybody wins.

Records By Mail

We call it a great site, but founder Craig Moerer has been digging through crates across the country since 1974 and shipping out vinyl and 45s well before e-commerce became commonplace. Through multiple vinyl revivals, Moerer's Portland, Ore.-based business has held steady and now keeps more than 2 million records in stock. His supply fluctuates based on what he's able to find, but a recent flip through his stacks came up with a $100 bootleg of Bob Dylan's show at Royal Albert Hall in 1966, a $75 copy of Miles Davis' nefertiti and a $55 rare pressing of the soundtrack to the 1967 Italian crime drama We Still Kill The Old Way. So how's Craig's response time? It depends on where he's delivering to, but a 45 of Desmond Dekker's Israelites we ordered showed up a day later at our location just outside of Portland. Beat that, Santa.


We'll freely admit that we poke around everybody else's shopping lists throughout the season, but no online shop got the kind of treatment that Bespokepost got from the good folks at Esquire -- who dedicated an entire section of their holiday gift guide to it. Granted, this now means that really cool items such as a $45 Curved Huntsman's Ax and $7 Round Ice Cube mold are no more. A sweet set of $30 Argoz Primo Argyle Merino Wool Socks is still in stock, though, as is a $29 bottle of Noble Bourbon Maple Syrup and a $55 liquor aging kit with tumblers. Though the offerings aren't subtle about wooing 21st Century Rat Pack wannabes who fancy themselves the next Clooney or DiCaprio, Bespokepost's selection is surprisingly gender-unspecific for its place in the grandaddy of all bro bibles.

Cafe DVD

We were reminded of Cafe DVD's existence shortly after the long-foreshadowed demise of Blockbuster Video earlier this year. Cafe DVD is more in the original Netflix  (NFLX) DVD-by-mail model that Blockbuster later tried to emulate, but it approaches that shrinking niche in the smartest way possible: by burrowing into a niche of its own. Since 1999 -- basically a Stone Age in the modern streaming context -- Cafe DVD has avoided Blockbuster's suicidal trap by avoiding blockbusters. Its tastes skew artistic, foreign, fringe and classic, while its subcategories including Criterion Collection discs, Dogme95 films, Blaxploitation and neo-noir should look familiar to those who once or still frequented independent video stores. Even staff picks -- such as Invictus in the wake of Nelson Mandela's death -- are a throwback to the now-rarified interpersonal movie rental experience. At $12 a month, its base subscription is more expensive than comparable offerings by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other services, but it does let you rent two DVDs at a time. If you have a film buff in mind and are looking to go a bit cheaper, however, individual rentals cost $1.45 per day through standard mail.


Not all of the shops on this list are sprawling stores teeming with variety. Some, such as Popchart lab, do one thing and do it well.

Popchartlab just makes novelty charts of fictional beers, hip-hop names, super powers and other seemingly trivial matters, but they load them with enough research and design savvy to make them must-haves for geeks of various distinctions. Those charts began as prints ($15 to $90), but occasionally they work just as well as beer-variety pint glasses ($12), fruit-and-vegetable tote bags ($25) and cheese chart cheese wheels ($36).

They're a great way to fill out the lists of esoteric friends with a robust, bar-trivia knowledge of wrestler names, Nintendo Entertainment System games and sneakers, but they're something only small portions of the country can get their hands on at this point. The West Coast is out of luck, as gifts had to be ordered on Sunday to ensure Christmas delivery. The middle of the country missed its chance to order framed prints, but can still get housewares and apparel until Tuesday. The East Coast really lucks out, with everything still available through the Wednesday and housewares and apparel a go until Thursday. If you're in the New York area, Popchartlab will be at the Union Square market through Christmas Eve.

Polaroid Fotobar

Polaroid didn't die the death it was supposed to.

Fans who were told that they didn't want the company's trademark white-bordered film anymore disagreed vociferously and came up with a third-party version after Polaroid ceased production. Facebook's Instagram still leans heavily on photo effects borrowed from original Polaroid shots.

Today, Polaroid lives on with at least a little help from the Fotobar, which converts digital images into Polaroid pictures ($1 to $40 each, depending on size), collages ($31 to $52) and shadowbox frames ($11 to $60). You can turn those photos into Polaroid-style coasters ($5) and magnets ($2.50) too, but the images are the site's biggest draw.

Sure, the Polaroid Fotobar is a one-trick pony. But for countless holiday seasons, the world documented the holiday season through that one trick. It still has value, and the folks behind that site were savvy enough to see it.

In God We Trust

Nope, not a religious site. Not nearly close.

Just like the folks at the Treasury who stamp that phrase onto the nation's currency, this site is focused on the money. Specifically, the money you'll be spending trying to keep someone you love warm without having them look like a member of an arctic expedition or a public works employee in a snowy state.

With this shop based in Brooklyn and Soho, however, some of that style involves accessorizing with coffee mugs that are essentially Mason jars with lids poked with metal straws ($24), suitcase turntables ($130) and brass-snapped bifold wallets ($110). Beyond that, it gets a bit more useful with a selection of cashmere beanies ($90) and headbands ($80), wool smartphone gloves ($30), wool duffle coats ($385) and wool cape coats ($536).

The city may look bad when the gray-to-black snow piles on the curb and the slush melts to ankle depth on the streetcorners, but that doesn't mean you have to look shabby while braving those elements.


There's a large segment of the recently wedded public that spent far too much time in this colorful stationery chain's stores in 2013. To them, we offer this promise: We're not going to force you to trim a pattern or stamp a bird onto anything you don't want to this holiday season.

Yes, you can get rolls of wrapping paper here and a whole lot of well-scripted Christmas cards, but that's what everyone else will be buying around you. You're smarter than that. You'll go to the gift section they're all overlooking and pick up a sock monkey ($3.95), some whiskey stones ($25), a composition book iPad cover ($11.50) and maybe even a custom stamp gift box ($40).

Yes, many of these are tchotchkes available at just about any novelty store on the Internet, but PaperSource is a misdirection play. With so many customers focused on its core products -- stationery and decor -- it's extremely rare that they run out of the stocking stuffers and small gifts that are top-shelf items on novelty sites.

All Modern

That's an All Modern shopper.

Where you might see some lovely rustic furniture and reclaimed fixtures, there's a person on your list that sees their personal nightmare. They like the clean lines and striking curves of Charles and Ray Eames' furniture. They enjoy the amorphous forms created by Frank Gehry. They like to fill their knick-knack shelves with the bold colors of Alexander Girard.

They want their gifts to look as if they came from a museum shop, but it needs to be a modern art museum shop. That's just fine, so long as everybody gets on the same page and gets what they want out of the deal. All Modern makes it easy to fit any modern home's aesthetic and just as simple to do so without blowing your budget.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.


Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

More from Personal Finance

When Is the FAFSA Deadline and What Are the Application Requirements?

When Is the FAFSA Deadline and What Are the Application Requirements?

This Should Be Your Retirement Savings Plan When the Stock Market Crashes

This Should Be Your Retirement Savings Plan When the Stock Market Crashes

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch Has 4 Tips to Getting a Promotion

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch Has 4 Tips to Getting a Promotion

What Is Neymar's Net Worth?

What Is Neymar's Net Worth?

How to Make a Fortune Like Microsoft Billionaire Founder Bill Gates

How to Make a Fortune Like Microsoft Billionaire Founder Bill Gates