Lots of us can struggle with finding the ‘perfect gift’. In a bid to compensate for a lack of ideas, some of us panic buy and end up with a towering pile, with others go off on a ‘creative’ tangent which, by Christmas Day, has become a mystery even to us.
But while seeing a loved one’s face light up as they unwrap your gift is a magical moment indeed, there’s no need to head into a tail spin. Instead, plan your present carefully using these expert tips from freelance personal shopper Amber Gordon.
Trusted by clients all over the world to source brilliantly unique pieces, Gordon, who also runs style blog Tailored Styling, is the go-to guru when it comes to shopping under pressure.
Here’s what she advises on the pursuit of the perfect Christmas present.
1. Listen to people
All of the best gifts I’ve ever received have either been things that I’ve mentioned to people in passing conversation, or something that they think might benefit me after making an observation about my life. To know that someone you care about has really listened to what you say, or taken the time to decipher your needs from a passing comment, means so much more than an expensive piece of jewellery with no meaning behind it. Being switched on to what people around you say can be hard sometimes, but it pays off at this time of year when Christmas shopping can be difficult.
2. Quality over quantity
When it comes to fashion, luxury is my forte. I will always encourage clients to buy one good quality, well made, classic, rather than indulge in three or four trend pieces that will not stand the test of time. Quality over quantity applies to everything—gift buying especially. The cheapest gift in a heaped pile will always bring down the perceived value of the bundle as a whole. So I always think it’s better to stick to buying one thoughtful gift, over a bag of bits that the person doesn’t actually want or need.
Having an item personalised may seem like a small gesture, but it can go a long way in making a more materialistic gift feel thoughtful. Most higher-end and mid-range brands offer this service in store. One of the best gifts my boyfriend has ever given me was a personalised pair of Stan Smiths. I absolutely live in them when I’m running around London shopping for clients, and last year he bought me a pair with my business name, Tailored Styling, embossed on them. Trainers may not seem like a particularly thoughtful gift, but trainers with a special personalised touch? Yes please.
4. Presentation is key
There is a reason luxury brand purchases come in incredible packaging; it adds to the experience and makes the process more exciting. A coffee mug wrapped and presented beautifully will seem a far more thoughtful gift than an expensive cashmere jumper that you haven’t even bothered to wrap. It means a lot to people to know you’ve taken time over them.
5. What is your message?
Gift giving is a powerful form of communication, so it’s essential to consider what you’re trying to say to your recipient. The message behind the gift is always more important that the gift itself. For example, a spa day booking says; ‘I feel that you deserve to be pampered and I acknowledge that you work hard’. Buying a great everyday handbag for a busy lawyer who works 14 hour days, says; ‘I know you carry a ton of paperwork with you all day - I want you to have something that will make your life easier’. A set of scented candles is lovely, but unless the person has a real penchant for them, what it really says is; ‘I am not switched on to your feelings, preferences or needs’.
6. Outsource the burden
The most common reason people buy ‘lazy’ or ‘easy’ gifts is a simple lack of time. We are all so busy. But if you really can’t find the time to do it right, outsource the burden to someone who can. There are plenty of services like this in London. I offer a gift buying service to clients, for example, where they describe their loved one to me—likes, dislikes, job role, age etc—and specify a budget. I come back to them with a range of 10 or so gift ideas that I think will work, before they make the final decision and I arrange for it to be collected, gift wrapped and delivered. All of the thought is the client’s, I just make the process faster and easier.
7. Use online shopping tools
The internet is full of shopping assistance, so make use of it if you’re stuck for inspiration or don’t have time to browse. ShopStyle is one of my personal favourites, and it saves a ton of time. Want to buy someone a grey scarf? Instead of spending hours trawling each website one by one, or fighting the crowds on Oxford Street to find the best option, simply type ‘grey scarf’ into ShopStyle and it will present you with every single option it can find for you, from a host of different brands. It links you straight to the retailer’s website too, so you can click and buy instantly.
When you let shopping get on top of you, you’re more likely to give up and buy lots of smaller, throwaway gifts, than spend more time looking for that perfect one.