Detroit — Early Christmas shoppers or those just looking for ideas flocked to Eastern Market on Sunday to  try out food, samples and handcrafted items that reflect Detroit's marketplace.

The All Things Detroit featured small businessesthat kicked off the holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation estimates nearly $721 billion, a 4.8 percent increase from 2017, this season.

"We think this will be one of our busiest events yet to date," said Jennyfer Crawford, founder of small business consulting firm Ask Jennyfer that has put on All Things Detroit for the past six years.

The 250 vendors taking part set up in Sheds 3, 4 and 5.

"It's worth the drive," said Janet Allen, who helps in her husband's business, Allen & Sons Woodworking in Grand Blanc. "This is not your grandma's craft fair."

The Allens travel to about 40 events per year. The Eastern Market event, their third, she said, attracts families that tend to be serious shoppers, having paid $5 to $15 for admission, she said.

This year's top seller for the Allens were the coffee K cup holders, especially those shaped like the Michigan mitten. Allen said even the holder shaped like a foot sold.

"You can't sell this stuff online," she said. "You have to look at it, feel it, sit in it."

According to an October survey from the National Retail Federation, consumers on average expect to spend $1,007.24 this holiday season, up more than 4 percent from last year. Of the respondents, 23 percent said they would shop at local or small businesses and 55 percent said they were planning to shop online.

Puneet Manchanda, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan, said it will be important for small businesses to have stand-out physical and virtual presences. He predicts mobile sales this year will surpass 50 percent.

"Businesses, especially small businesses if they don't have a mobile presence, then they will be getting left out of consumers' shopping journey," Manchanda said.

Shoppers at All Things Detroit said online shopping is no substitute to the one-on-one experience they have with local businesses.

"He took the time to explain to me the product so that I could understand what went into it," said Melanie Rutherford, 39, a singer-songwriter from Pontiac, about Brad Coffee, who owns Coffee Upcycle with his wife, Amy. "We can't thrive if mom-and-pop businesses don't come back."

Coffee Upcycle, which repurposes old military duffel bags and other material to make totes and shirts, made its first appearance at All Things Detroit after participating in a similar event in Beacon Park this summer.

"These items are not something you can find on a shelf," Coffee said of what All Things Detroit offers. "They have a uniqueness, and they're often handmade. They make for special, personal gifts."

Shopping with small businesses, Crawford said, allows consumers to support their communities.

"I feel like with small businesses, some people support it because it's a trend or fab," she said. "For us, it’s not. This is how they live, this is how they eat, this is how they provide for their families."

Shoppers and vendors said it makes sense during the holiday season to give back to their communities, whether by donating to charities or shopping local.

"It's wonderful to see all that Detroit and Michigan has to offer in so many ways," Earnett Nolden of Southfield said.


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