Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Shopping Ideas

Christmas shopping - it's a hideous experience, no point glossing over it. But, alas, it has to be done eventually. Thankfully we have the internet to help us avoid unnecessarily trips to the shops, but I'm not sure you can entirely rely on online shopping, especially if you want to buy something a bit different. Plus, with virtually limitless choice available online, it can be a wearying experience trawling the net for a gift, especially when most retailers' search tools don't really help to refine your options too well. I tried searching for a 'star necklace' on notonthehighstreet.com and was presented with just 18,648 options to consider...there is such a thing as 'too much choice', I reckon. 

So, where you can you buy original, stylish, good value gifts on the real, actual high street? Here's where I've found some brilliant stuff so far this year...

Hit or miss for a lot the year, TX Maxx really comes into its own ahead of Christmas. This year its shelves seem to be particularly bounteous and filled with premium products at a fraction of the RRP. Bristol has several outlets, but I usually visit the Cribbs Causeway branch which is a little less stress inducing than the one in the Galleries. Its homeware and beauty department is, at the moment, a veritable goldmine, whether you're after One Direction perfume for the tween in your family, or some new mugs for your mum. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll find goodies such as Miller Harris candles (£20, half the RRP) and Neom Organics bath and body oils. On my visit I spotted shower gels from Space NK's own brand range for just £3.99, as well as Cath Kidston soaps and a pretty comprehensive range of perfumes from brands such as Prada and Marc Jacobs, as well as more niche beauty houses, such as Annick Goutal.

Up in homeware, I stumbled on lovely bird mugs by Emma Bridgewater, as well as beautiful calendars from arty publishing house Taschen. The book selection is also fantastic at the moment - I picked up a massive hardback Lego Architecture book for £12.99 (it retails elsewhere at around the £15-£20 mark.) You'll find amazing cookbooks amongst the range, and unusual titles that you might miss in a normal bookshop - a DK book on computer coding for kids for £5.99 will make the perfect stocking filler for my 10-year-old.

If you're brave enough to buy clothes as presents you need to delve a little more closely into the racks for the gems to reveal themselves. There's a lot of tat on the hangers, too, but you might spot a pair of J Brand jeans (a present to myself - perfect fit skinny jeans for just £49) or a cute Clements Ribeiro jumper. Socks might be classed as a boring gift but dads and hard-to-buy for uncles are usually happy to receive a new intake for their sock drawer, and there are some quirky, boxed sets from brands such as Original Penguin and William Hunt in the menswear department.

For something a little more original, visit the Made in Bristol fair, which takes place at the Colston Hall on 13th December. The antithesis of high street mayhem, things are relatively calm here, where you'll find a range of independent sellers showcasing everything from ceramics and prints to soaps and jewellery. It's a great place to pick up something unusual and support small businesses. I bought a lovely necklace from Jules & Clem - handmade, beautifully boxed and considerably cheaper than something similar from TopShop. Be sure to whizz by the 'Tash & Bow' stall, where you'll find cool perspex jewellery made by pupils at Hanham High School. The after-school jewellery club has been set up to encourage more girls to get involved in Design & Technology, and receives support from Rolls Royce. The girls were manning a stall laden with lovely pieces, featuring both their trademark 'tash and bow designs and retro-style initial necklaces, the perfect presents for my teenage nieces. Priced at just £4 and lovingly packaged in smart brown boxes, secured with funky washi tape, they look exactly like something you'd pick up for three times the price in Hoxton.

There's nothing like supporting a charity while shopping for pressies for giving you a festive warm glow so why not stop by the fantastic Gromit Unleashed shop while you're trawling the Mall? Having got to know a little more about the charity it supports - Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity - through my job at Aardman Animations, I've stocked up on a few pressies here, happy to know my money is going to a charity that does amazing work for poorly babies and children across the region. You'll find the famous collection of Gromit figurines, soft toys, tea towels and even a special Gromit Unleashed edition of Monopoly, featuring locations from the trail. There are good value stocking fillers, too - Gromit Top Trumps, mugs, books and giant Gromit chocolate coins. You can also buy online if you really can't face the crowds.

Finally, who wouldn't love some fresh flowers popping through their letterbox as a Christmas treat? Literally fitting through your letterbox, the flowers at Bloom & Wild don't require their recipient to be at home at the time of delivery - brilliant. The flowers are supplied in a slimline box and include instructions on how to arrange them for a professional-looking display. You can choose from a variety of seasonal flowers, and prices start at just £20 for a simple bouquet. A great idea if you're totally stuck for ideas and running short on shopping time. Check out fantastic blog The Frugality where you can read more about Bloom & Wild, plus enjoy a special discount on your order. 

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