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Bye, online shopping! 6 things you can buy from southern Wisconsin small businesses instead

Here are the top 6 things people from WI buy online—and where to go to buy them from a locally owned business in southern Wisconsin instead

Online shopping has rapidly become the new norm. According to Forbesmore than 20% of retail purchases in 2023 are expected to take place online—a number that is only expected to grow in the coming years.

If you’ve become an online shopping addict yourself, we don’t blame you—crossing off your Christmas list is a whole lot easier when you can stay in your pajamas and just lift a finger instead of putting on real clothes and braving the elements. However, when you only open your wallet to behemoth companies like Amazon—which accounts for 37.8% of all e-commerce sales—you contribute to the downfall of already suffering small businesses.

But here’s the good news: Many local businesses offer online sales in addition to in-person shopping these days, so you can get the best of both worlds. Or you can shop the old-fashioned way and get to know the good people in your neighborhood.

However you go about it, we compiled a list of the top six products Wisonsinites purchased online, then tracked down the local spots where you can get virtually the same thing—all while lining the pockets of locals rather than Jeff Bezos.

Sweaters

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When Zippia put together a report on the item each state bought the most in 2022, there were some surprising results (do Washingtonians really buy that much peppermint essential oil?). And then there were some that weren’t so surprising, like Nevada with tequila. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? Considering the winters here can reach -40 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not a huge shocker that sweaters were the top ranked item ordered online in Wisconsin.

Fortunately, there are a bunch of boutiques in the southern part of the state that sell this item, and they’re better quality than anything you can get from Amazon or the like.

Women shoppers rave about the sweaters at Shop Privy in Wauwatosa. One five-star review states, “This store was so cute! There was a good mix of staples like tank tops and jeans as well as seasonal items like the cutest sweaters. They also have gift items like candles and jewelry.” Another visitor wrote, “I don’t know what I did before Shop Private was around. There are so many options every season for all ages and a variety of different styles for so many body types.”

For higher-end women’s sweaters, check out Sunne Boutique in Madison, which carries sustainable and unique brands. You’re sure to attract all the compliments when you wear this extra-cozy MINKPINK Dipped Sweaterand you can’t go wrong with the perfectly autumnal GENTLE FAWN Barnaby Sweater.

For high-quality men’s sweaters (in addition to all kinds of other well-made items), you can’t go wrong with Milworks in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. The Birth Of The Cool Gold Howlin Sweater would set off the perfect Thanksgiving outfit. The store even carries the iconic Pendleton sweater made famous by Jeff Bridges in “The Big Lebowski.” If you don’t know and love that movie (or that sweater), “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

Home Entertainment

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If you Google the top items Americans purchased online, nearly every article or graphic has the same category near the top: home entertainment. According to a poll by BigCommerce, 47% of shoppers said they’d purchased books, movies, music, and/or games online in the last 12 months—and that’s not counting downloads. The category was second only to clothing at 59%. Here are some swell spots where you can get all of the above in southern Wisconsin.

For books in Madison, check out A Room of One’s Own for new jobs or Frugal Muse for an excellent used selection. In the Milwaukee area, both Boswell Book Company and The Little Read Book are great spots to visit.

To watch movies, why not head to one of Wisconsin’s funky arthouse cinemas instead of streaming? Whether you go to Milwaukee’s famous Oriental TheatreUW-Madison’s Cinemathequeor UW-Milwaukee’s Union Cinemayou can experience new blockbusters, indie films, and classics alike at these indie theaters.

The audiophiles of southern Wisconsin are lucky enough to have a huge selection of rad record shops with cult followings to choose from, including Acme Records and Lilliput Records in Milwaukee or MadCity Music and Strictly Discs in Madison.

Last but not least, to peruse, play, and purchase games, head to Pegasus Games, Misty Mountain Gamesor X-Change Video Games in Madison, all of which have rave reviews.

Green Bay Packers Merchandise

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Several years ago, Walmart shared a graphic showing the best-selling online items from each state, and the one for Wisconsin was oddly … specific.

While folks from Alaska ordered RVs and marine antifreeze and people in Wyoming ordered flannel shirts, Wisconsinites apparently couldn’t get enough of the superstore’s Green Bay Packers bath mat.

For all the Packers fans out there, several local stores in the southern Wisconsin area sell tons of merchandise for your favorite NFL team. For example, the Green & Gold Zone in Greenfield is always a hit, and it just so happens to sell a Packers Tufted Bath Mat for those afraid of slipping in their own respective “Frozen Tundra.” Fleet Farm is also a great option, and it has a whopping 20+ locations across Wisconsin. Side note: you’re going to want to add this adorable knit Packers hat to your Christmas wishlist pronto.

Bubble-Popping Fidget Toys

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If you don’t know what we mean by a “bubble-popping fidget toy,” you must have been living under a rock for the last few years. The unique silicone toys became an overnight hit during the pandemic after they were featured in a viral TikTok video, per Yahoo! Finance.

The calming tools helped many kids (and adults) through the anxiety of the times, and the craze isn’t going anywhere soon. According to KCRAthe toys were among the top products Americans purchased online last year.

However, plenty of local stores carry the strangely addictive toys, including Kinderladen in New Glarus, Ruckus & Glee in Wauwatosa, and The Smiley Barn in Delafield. Whether you pick one up for your kiddo or want to try out a bubble-popping toy for yourself (it’s cheaper than therapy, after all), you’ll love checking out these delightful toy stores in southern Wisconsin.

Wool Dryer Balls

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Another top-selling item on KCRA’s 2022 list was wool dryer balls, which have become something of a hit in the last several years. Adding a few to each load of laundry can reduce dry time, wrinkles, and waste so you can say goodbye to those dryer sheets. But if you’re really Committed to a sustainable lifestyle, you’ll head to a local store to snag these as opposed to clicking “Buy Now” on Amazon.

Wisconsin Candle Company in Waunakee sells them for $3 each, and the store recommends adding a couple drops of your favorite essential oil blend (ask a Washingtonian) before popping them in your dryer. Plus, they can be used for up to 1,000 loads. The small balls can also be purchased at Green Life Trading in Madison, which carries tons of other trendy and sustainable products for your home.

Shower Caddies

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According to data pulled by KRCAthe KINCMAX Shower Caddy was one of the top-selling items on Amazon for all of 2022, and we’ve already discussed how serious Wisconsinites are about their shower items. With an average of 4.8 stars and close to 30,000 reviews, the $30 product is clearly beloved by many online shoppers. That’s even went viral on TikTok. However, we found some local options for those who want something similar but also want to support small businesses.

Locally owned southern Wisconsin hardware stores like Bliffert Lumber, Design, & Hardware have these bad boys in stock, as do Ace Hardware stores, all of which are independently owned. The ones you find may not be all over TikTok, but they’ll do the trick at a fraction of the price.

  • Claire MainprizeClaire Mainprize

    Claire Mainprize is a writer and editor who covers the intersections of pop culture, lifestyle, and spirituality. Find more of her work at ClaireMainprize.com.

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