Answer Woman: What makes a bad gift? What are the do's & don'ts of holiday shopping?

ASHEVILLE - Today's burning question is all about Christmas shopping. Got a question for Answer Man or Answer Woman? Email Interim Executive Editor Karen Chávez at and your question could appear in an upcoming column.

Question: What is the etiquette for holiday gift giving when it comes to friends, co-workers and others?

Answer: The holiday season has officially kicked off, meaning the shopping frenzy is underway. If your family is like mine, it may be difficult to figure out what item to get a person that they don’t already have and that fits their current interests and hobbies.

For guidance and inspiration, I went to an expert who assists customers regularly with gift shopping.

Heather Wright, the owner of Provisions Mercantile, stocks her two Asheville retail stores with locally made artisan food products, home goods, accessories, apparel, toys and other gifts for the whole family, including fur babies.

Wright shared her wisdom on how to navigate holiday shopping and select presents that recipients will enjoy and appreciate.

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Heather Wright, owner of Provisions Mercantile in Asheville.
Heather Wright, owner of Provisions Mercantile in Asheville.

When a customer visits Provisions Mercantile in search of gifts, how do you guide them?

Wright: When customers come in it’s our job to help them not put together a mindless gift but to help their thought process, so the gift is ultimately curated by them. We ask the right questions to help them start thinking about the recipient.

They feel like, “I have no idea,” but the reality is when we start asking questions (they) start going in a direction, and we start making suggestions. What are they into? Do they like food? Are they outdoors people? Are they more into cocktails than in the kitchen?

Asking the right question allows the gift giver to begin to hone in a little bit more on that particular person.  It’s our job to help curate a gift that feels very personal and ultimately curated to reflect their relationship.

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Is there a such thing as a bad gift?

Wright: The only way you can do a bad gift is if there’s no thought behind it. If there’s a lack of thought or intention, I think that could result in a less desirable gift.

Is there anything else people shouldn’t do while choosing a gift?

Wright: Yes. Things we shouldn’t do, one thing is overthink a gift. We can overthink ourselves and talk ourselves out of what really might be a very thoughtful gift. But we’re thinking, “Oh, they won’t like it … it’s not enough … it’s too little.” Overthinking can actually result in that bad gifting idea.

Provisions Biltmore Village is a modern day general store with food, gifts and decor.
Provisions Biltmore Village is a modern day general store with food, gifts and decor.

Should we shop locally?

There is an element of shopping local and buying local that feels special, that feels unique, that feels elevated and that doesn’t mean expensive. When people come into our store and they want to find something unique, they also are looking for feeling. They’re looking for emotional connection and that’s easier to do on a local level. You’re shopping in our community. You’re helping people in our community. ... There is an emotional connection that buying local products and shopping at local stores has that large, big box retailers ― you’re just not going to find it there.

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Do you have any other tips on how to make holiday shopping easier and less stressful?

Wright: 1. Don’t wait ‘til the last minute. Starting early is always a really good idea. Starting early gives you ample time to think, to look, to shop.

It’s easier to find a couple of gifts at a time instead of feeling that pressure of, “I have to go out and I’ve got to buy everything today.” That can be one of those daunting, stressful ideas.”

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2. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find “the perfect gift.” There are a lot of really great gifts. The “perfect gift” can feel a bit daunting.

3. And don’t feel the need to buy the most popular gift that’s out there. There are lots of things that may not make all the lists but make great gifts.

I think it’s easier if you shop at stores that are uniquely curated. That is the intention behind the stores, so you are going to find shops, especially local shops, that spend their time and energy finding products that are unique and different and not just everyday products you see everywhere.

Provisions Mercantile is at 728 Haywood Road in West Asheville and 14 Lodge St. in Biltmore Village. For details, visit

Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Answer Woman: What are the do's & don'ts of holiday gift shopping?