Another year travelling the country – and indeed the world – to help businesses I work with to ‘keep the customer satisfied’. In 2016, I have celebrated 21 years crafting my knowledge and expertise.
But this is the most wonderful time of the year for me, not least that there is only a few more 4am starts, travel tickets to collect and caffeine fixes before I can nestle back into beautiful West Yorkshire for the holidays.
And where does a well informed retail expert do her Christmas shopping - right here in the heart of Wakefield.
It is not some last minute blind panic, or that I’m so fatigued with retail that I leave it to the very last minute before I have to shop.
Simply, we have a beautiful balance of national chains with independent stores - and I want to support the area I live in. When you spend £10 locally, a higher percentage of it stays locally and that feeds the economy in my favourite place - home.
If, like me, you still have some Christmas shopping still to do then let me share with you some top tips and some of my favourite stores and services.
Our emotions are heightened in the build up to Christmas - both the good and bad - but we are certainly more likely to overspend.
We are enticed with the promotions, the excitement of the event and the drive to want to treat the ones we love. Brilliant if this is all within your budget - not great if this creates debt and headaches in the new year and beyond.
So let’s not start the new year with a debt hangover from Christmas! The first thing we need to do is work out our budget and make sure we stick to it. Think less about the ‘saving’ you might make, and more about the spending you are committing to.
2. Lists, Lists, Lists
I know that half of you may be close to turning the page when I mention the less exciting side of shopping - but if you fail to prepare, you must be prepared to fail. I do commit to saving for 11 months of the year, helping me to ease the burden of the Christmas shopping. Truly, it is the thought that counts, so the more time you can dedicate to thinking about something special and personal to that person the better. It should not be about the amount you spend.
The best gifts I have ever received - photos from special times that have been framed, vouchers of time from friends offering to help with my three children and hand drawn pictures from the kids.
Take the time to understand who you really need to buy for and who might be just as happy with a considerate card.
3. Avoid the busy shopping times
Very few of us enjoy crowds, stress and road rage! Believe it or not, shopping at this time of the year can be enjoyable, but choosing the right time is essential. The obvious peak times still apply - so an early start or later evening might be a time to enjoy a coffee and hit the shops in relative peace.
4. Dont panic buy the bland stuff!
If grown-ups did write a letter to Santa, I doubt it would feature a toiletry and soap set so in honest truth, I am not sure this go-to item is a dream gift for many. There are so many options even if you draw a blank with the shops.
To start - we have some amazing culture around us.
The Theatre Royal punches above its weight with some brilliant events and shows, so even if a ticket is not in price range, a voucher could be purchased. Likewise, cinema tickets or an afternoon tea at Yorkshire Sculpture Park would be a welcome gift and something to look forward to in the new year.
What is the worst that could happen? If you are buying for an adult there should be some way of having a reasonable chat before the main event about what they might want or if there is no gift to be found, write a funny IOU to get something in the new year.
Places I love to shop in Wakefield:
l The Ridings
I love the eclectic mix of independent stores at The Ridings and there is something for everyone, whatever your tastes.
I’ll often treat my daughter to a little handmade chocolate teddy bear from Feathers Confectionery and if I’m looking for a special gift, I head to Created in Yorkshire, for something original and handmade made right here in God’s Own County.
l Wakefield Antiques Centre is a treasure trove of hidden finds and I love popping in and never know what I’ll come out with. Artworld Gallery stocks affordable contemporary art at affordable prices and is great for a special gift for a loved one, although I often get tempted to buy for myself there too as I’m always on the hunt for new pieces. For any music lovers in the family, I head to Morgana Hellraiser for records and cool band merchandise, which can often be hard to track down in Wakefield.
l Local gift and collectables chain Peter Jones China is always great for keepsake gifts such as their beautiful ornate globes - a reminder of how much of the world there is left to see. Or if you’re looking for something more practical, their pans and knife sets really do last for years.
l Independently owned cafe Marmalade on the Square is a hidden gem and great for lunch or a sweet treat. They also have vegan and gluten free options and my only issue there is can never decide on what to have - everything always looks so yummy.
l After a cup of Yorkshire Tea, I’ll head along to Trinity Walk and if I have an event will often head to Debenhams for a huge collection of branded presents. This year, I love their homewares from great designers which make unusual gifts - gold pineapple bar accessories, anyone? It’s my go-to for accessories and jewellery, allowing you to freshen up your favourite outfit with little cost!
l I can’t resist the smell of Lush and always pop in for a body butter and a bath bomb. Kids seem to love their jelly soaps and since the products are handmade from natural ingredients they’re gentle on sensitive skins and ethical too.
l After spending a couple of hours browsing Trinity Walk’s high street favourites, Pandora, Topshop and River Island I’m usually all shopped out and ready for something tasty to eat.
Local independent restaurant Iris serves up delicious, seasonal British food and their tea time special feels so indulgent but comes at a steal.
l If all else fails - my top tip is head to The Yorkshire Sculpture Park - no only do they have the most gorgeous shop full of crafted art and jewellery from £10 upwards - they often run brilliant events from Yoga retreats to wreath making. A ticket to one of these would be an amazing experience. All our local charities need support, so if you are giving to the person ‘who seems to have everything’ why not make a donation to their local charity instead?