It’s that time of year again – the start of the Christmas shopping period. Already in many towns and cities throughout the country, the Christmas festivities have begun, with Christmas lights having been switched-on, festive markets gracing the open spaces in many towns and cities and of course, late night shopping.
At Bull Ring Shopping centre, earlier this week, a crowd of many thousands queued all day to have pictures taken with the Coca-Cola truck.
The German and Craft Markets span a mile of the city from an ice rink and Big Wheel at Symphony Hall through hundreds of stalls leading down New Street to Bull Ring Shopping Centre.
A rather organised close friend said to me this week – ‘it’s never too early to start the Christmas shopping’. The person in question may have taken this to the extreme though, as they started their shopping in late summer, had wrapped their presents by the end of September, wrote their Christmas cards in early October and had both presents and cards all given-out by the first week of November. Maybe this is a little too early but then again, there will be no last minute rushing!
Many people are avoiding the High Street altogether and organising their gift delivery online. Online retailers are expecting a bumper year.
Online Spending at Christmas: one-in-five goods bought online
We expect online Christmas spending to break through the 20% barrier, rising to £14.6 billion in 2013 (a rise of 15.8%). The online share of Christmas spending will be 20.1% compared to last year’s 17.7%, meaning that one in five goods will be bought online. UK online retail sales will be higher both in value and as a proportion of all-retail sales than any other country in Europe.
Whilst on the subject, let’s not forget the benefits of internet shopping. For those of us that don’t enjoy going round shop after shop, bumping into people and carrying shopping bags, the internet offers an easy way to shop from the comfort of your home. Shopping early is still essential even on the internet (probably more so), as there is a time delay for delivery of items (usually varying from 2-5 days and occasionally longer). Time may also be needed to send any damaged or incorrect items back to the company – having to send these back, have them exchanged (hopefully) and have then sent out again.
Despite difficult economic times we will spend more than last year.
The Centre for Retail research commented
We expect Christmas 2013 in the UK to be better than last year with sales growth of 2.1% compared to last year’s eventual outturn of 0.9%. The improvements in the UK economy and an increase in consumer confidence will help retail spending this Christmas. A significant feature is expected to be the fact many families are looking for a ‘traditional’ family Christmas, perhaps less bling but more conviviality. Nonetheless spending on items like games consoles, tablets and smartphone is likely to break records. The only European country likely to do better than the UK will be Germany with growth of 3.0% compared to last year.
I’m stating the obvious here, as we all know, Christmas shopping can be extremely stressful and even the calmest of us can let our anger rise out of control when short of time, tired, hot, jostled about in the crowd and – perish the thought – actually having children with us. Here are a few techniques then for avoiding stress and anger when Christmas shopping.
TRY TO START SHOPPING AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE TO AVOID THE RUSH – There’s nothing worse than rushing around on the last few days before Christmas, or even ‘horror of horrors’ on Christmas Eve. (Note: Presents from the 24 Hour Garage are easily spotted)
The outcome of last minute shopping will likely be that the presents bought for loved ones will not be what we wanted, but instead last minute choices and the stress of fighting our way through the crowds at lightning speed and having to do other things too will not help our stress levels. It is always better to start Christmas shopping early, even if not taking it all too seriously to start with. Now is certainly not too late for this. By shopping early, we are in less of a rush to buy, can miss the crowds and hopefully the presents that we do buy should be the right ones. This should also help us to avoid those annoying after Christmas trips to get refunds.
TRY TO SHOP EARLIER IN THE DAY – As a rule of thumb, the crowds are usually larger later in the day. Peak times when the crowds are largest tend to be around lunchtimes (when many city centre workers are out and about doing some shopping) and often after work. Though many shops are now open until late every day, late night openings always tend to be busier. Using a whole well deserved lunch break to stand in a queue is frustrating! Generally any time after midday on weekends tends to be the busiest time of the day, especially Saturday afternoons. As such, going shopping earlier in the day, especially in the run-up to Christmas usually means that the shops will be quieter and less stressful. If lucky enough to work in a city centre or near to a shopping area, it can be a good idea to take the morning, or even an hour or two from work, one day a week in the weeks leading up to Christmas – to get shopping done during the most quiet time of the day. This also saves having to go shopping after a long working day and arriving home late and tired.
PLAN AHEAD: MAKE A LIST OF ITEMS NEEDED BEFORE HEADING OUT TO THE SHOPS – I would not want to wish upon anyone the frustration of heading home only to remember loads of items that we forget to buy so planning in advance is essential. Especially at busy times of the year such as the lead-up to Christmas, where we are having to think about all kinds of different things, making a quick note of items needed before heading out to the shops can save a great deal of frustration. It takes pressure off our mind and can also be very self satisfying to tick the items off from the list when bought – looking at all those crossed-off items.
MAKE SURE TO LEAVE AS MUCH TIME AS POSSIBLE TO SHOP AND, TIME PERMITTING, STOP AND HAVE A REST – Rushing around and getting stressed can cause a vicious cycle. This stress leads to more rushing and in turn leads to more stress and so-on. By leaving time to do the shopping at a slower pace, it is easier to avoid getting stressed and starting this vicious cycle in the first place. Being tired and hungry when shopping can also trigger this stress.
Another good technique that can be used alongside taking time to shop in a relaxed way is to take time out to eat lunch or even a quick drink – though preferably non-alcoholic as this can cause tiredness, lack of concentration and stress. If spending the day shopping (especially if taking the full day or much of the day shopping) viewing the day as a sort of working day can be helpful to maintain focus. This can also be useful for providing the self discipline to have a lunch break for half an hour or an hour to sit down, eat and talk, if shopping with another person. Likewise this can also help to spur us on for getting back up and shopping in the afternoon.
CARRY SOME SPARE CHANGE AROUND IN A SEPARATE POCKET FOR EMERGENCIES – You never know what will happen on a shopping trip, so it’s always a good idea to carry a small amount of physical money. There may be some shops, or more probably market stalls, that do not take credit cards even in this day and age. Paying with good old fashioned money can be useful for buying cheap items, paying bus/taxi fare, maybe even a car park meter (especially the older meters) and of course is vital in the unfortunate situation that our wallet/purse (containing our credit cards etc) is stolen.
TRY NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN WITH US WHEN BUYING THEIR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. It is probably not a good idea to have our children around when buying their Christmas presents – unless of course they are older and choosing what to buy for themselves. The worry in this situation is more to do with our bank balance than anything else. Having young children around can be very stressful, as children will naturally be children. They are often easily distracted, want to go down streets or into shops where we adults do not at that particular time, and often become impatient and restless, especially after a long time shopping. This is even more the case with two or more children. To avoid all the stresses that this can bring, it is definitely advisable to leave the children at home with another family member or trusted person or, if possible, do the shopping on a school-day. Here again, like so many things, good planning is essential for allowing us these days at such a busy time of year.
LEAVE THE CAR AT HOME – Again this depends on where we are heading and the time of day. For busy shopping periods and in towns centres or other locations where parking is generally more difficult, if possible, leaving the car at home and using public transport can be less stressful than using the car, thinking about petrol, finding a parking space, paying and then while shopping, having the constant worry about being back at the car for a set time. The main advice when using pubic transport is to try and plan in advance how many different journeys will be needed to shops, as less shopping can be carried on the bus or train, than in a car. Then again, if we have bought too much to carry back on public transport, a taxi is always an option.
PLACE ITEMS INTO AS FEW BAGS AS POSSIBLE – One last thing before I forget is something that can be very useful when buying items from many different shops, is to place the shopping into as few bags as possible. It is really common sense but something that people do not always do, myself included in this. Place the small bags into the larger ones, maybe even taking a very strong bag from home to the shops to carry these in. This not only makes carrying everything easier but also ensures that we do not have the stress of losing something or having it pick-pocketed, something that is sadly all too common leading up to Christmas. Just be careful not to place too much into one bag, only to have this split.
Hopefully these techniques are useful for making those Christmas shopping trips stress free, or at least less stressful. While these are really common-sense suggestions, it is amazing how many people forget some of them when actually doing the Christmas shopping.