If you’re the kind of person who finds joining the hordes of pre-Christmas shoppers stressful, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Research by eBay recently revealed that heart rates in British shoppers rise by 33% when out buying festive gifts and treats. That’s the kind of increase normally seen when running a marathon!
Circumvent the crowds with our hassle-free holiday shopping guide that should save time, your temper and your sanity.
"The two Thursdays prior to Christmas prove to be extremely popular for office parties. Expect the streets, trains, buses and taxis to be busy on these evenings."
Firstly, do you even need to leave the house? This year, online shopping is expected to hit a whopping £24.3bn. Skip Westfield's maddening crowds, sip some tea and browse Amazon, Argos, Asos or wherever the surf takes you. If delivery in a plain brown box feels too impersonal, ship to yourself so you can wrap it and add a card.
If you need to battle the real world, the most important thing to know is when to avoid: Christmas Eve. Procrastinating (and panicking!) shoppers will be out in full force on December 24th, along with a mass of commuters heading home to friends and family. Compound this congestion with the shops closing early, public transport winding down, and Christmas falling on a weekend this year, and the hordes are more likely than ever to impede your progress and perhaps your goodwill toward men.
Next to avoid are any and all Saturdays. You already know this, but December Saturdays between 11am and 4pm promise the most mall foot traffic. If you must shop at the weekend, your best bet is Sunday, but keep in mind that peak time is around midday.
The two Thursdays prior to Christmas (this year December 15th and 22nd) prove to be extremely popular for office parties. Expect the streets, trains, buses and taxis to be busy on these evenings.
If you are able to shop during the week, the most peaceful days are Monday, Thursday, and Tuesday (in that order). Generally, it's best to shop first thing in the morning, or just before closing time. Weekday mornings are also the best time to visit London's Christmas markets and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
Google your favourite shopping centre for opening times and arrive there early. They tend to get really busy from about 11 o’clock. Google's "popular times" feature can give you a better sense of when to expect, and thus avoid peak hours.
Due to fall-out from a weakened pound, some retailers are may be raising prices this year, so get your gift buying in early and remember that no matter what you spend on gifts this year, you can't put a price on the peace and tranquillity that comes with a low-stress shopping experience.
Follow these helpful pointers to keep your spirits in the season: merry, bright and, above all, joyful.