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Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Annual Christmas Shopping Adventure

Buying Excuses
Every year the moment November hits the Wheel of Year, the malls start to liven up with Christmassy decorations, carols and promotions.

To the shoppers, this is a reminder to stock up on Christmas gifts, a new dress here and there, and other items that the Year-End Sales bring about. To the retailers, this is probably a great chance to earn till they drop and clear old stocks, as everyone scatters about grabbing gifts and other useless ornaments - stuff that people don't usually buy.

Reasons to Shop
What makes the Christmas Shoppers so excited to buy, willing to spend, and flock to the malls like bees to pollens? What do they buy? Why?

"I don't know, I just feel so excited, I need to shop for Christmas - even though I hardly go anywhere around Christmastime," receptionist Christine* says. "Maybe a few items for company and friends' gift exchange, but it is so fun."

Gifts. Yes, tons of gifts to buy for Christmas. Thoughtful gifts for those who are closer to us, such as family members, partners and good friends. These are the gifts that require more time to shop for, since we want to ensure that the items we get are loved by our dear ones, are useful, and we hunt for the ideal gifts even if we have to run around the whole of Orchard Road (think, from Tanglin Mall to Dhoby Ghaut).

Those who love Christmas shop for gifts, shop for gowns for each different party, shop for Christmas ornaments and foodstuff.

Those who do not celebrate Christmas shop because of the year-end sales, where everything goes on reduced prices.

Those who come to Singapore for vacation (tourists or returning migrants) shop as well as those who are leaving for vacations - they also haunt the malls for their winter wear, holiday needs etc.

Hence, the malls are often jam-packed with shoppers holding countless bags, hurrying from one shop to the other, during this busy festive season.

What do people usually buy for their loved ones?

"It depends.. sometimes, can be a book or a mug that I overhear my Dad mentioning... or a pair of fashion earrings that my friend likes when we go shopping together," Christine* answers thoughtfully. "Or when I am lazy, maybe gift vouchers?"

Yes, being observant is important, so that we are aware of what our loved ones currently desires or requires; also, we know the kind of brands, styles, colors etc that they usually prefer when we take the effort to observe. For the lack of a Christmas wishlist, being observant makes our job a lot more easier when shopping. Be careful with giving gift vouchers too - certain people may find it "insincere" while others may prefer it, so that they could purchase something that they need / like.

Banker, Sharona* tells us where she usually does her Christmas shopping. "I prefer buying nice gifts, such as Louis Vuitton wallets, Mont Blanc pens or Chanel earrings for my loved ones," she shows us some photographs of the gifts that she receives in turn. "In fact, just yesterday, I bought a Prada name card holder for my hubby and a Mulberry bag for my mom. I just love buying nice gifts for people - the expressions on their faces are priceless!"

Yes, understanding our loved ones and what they like / need is very essential. A thoughtful gift shows the receiver that efforts have been put into getting an item that the receiver can appreciate, and feel loved about (after all, Christmas is about love and the joy of giving, is it not?) These applies for gifts to be placed under the Christmas trees or gift exchanges between treasured friends / relatives etc.

"If someone is already wearing, say, a Tiffany & Co necklace or carrying a Prada wallet, please do not buy a cheap accessory necklace for this person, or a wallet from, say, The Wallet Shop. I mean, it is the thoughts that count, yes, but why deliberately give someone an item you know they won't wear because they're already using a better one?" Sharona* advises.

Well, yes, true to a certain extent. However, Tim*, a hotel's marketing manager, begs to differ. "It depends? Some ladies I know wear a variety of jewelry and accessories, or carry different bags a day. Like my wife? She has accessories ranging from $3.99 to jewelry that cost $50,000 - and she wears different ones each day, depending on her outfits."

Handmade gifts are lovely too, but sadly, not everyone has the patient or talent to make them; and not everyone appreciates such special gifts.

How about Gifts for Mass Exchanges?

"Whoa, I always get a headache when I think about my company gift exchange, or the ones at church," Tim* shakes his head. "I need to buy 30 gifts for colleagues, its a culture here; and then I need to get another 30 gifts for church friends..."

Under such circumstances, one tends to mass purchase - chocolates, ornamental mugs, photoframes, stylus pens etc.

For this group of gifts, less thoughtfulness is required usually. Basically the criteria to look out for, is that one does not repeat the same gifts they got for the same colleagues or churchmates / friends last year. Also, budget is taken into consideration here too. The age group is a factor as well, for instance, you wouldn't want to get a Minnie Mouse mug for a colleague who is in her fifties. Get something that is neutral, or has a neutral
design / theme to it.

Nice Gift-ing Ideas?
This really depends on what your receiver likes. Are they into sports? Wine? Travelling? Fashion? Are they collectors of items?

"Once you've established the above, it makes shopping for gifts much easier," Tim* suggests confidently. "I like to visit Takashimaya's Talking Hall, or Daiso for ideas."

Whether you intend to buy a Samsonite luggage, a Desigual dress or a year's magazine subscription, as long as it is something that the person likes, that is the most important point. The lavish people may be able to afford presents like cars, holidays, Christian Louboutins, Cartier's or Vertu's, then.. where do the average people get their ideas from?

For average-range gifts, places such L'Occitane, Marks & Spencer, The Body Shop, Victoria's Secrets, Braun Buffel, City Chain, Calvin Klein, Royce Chocolates, Thomas Sabo, Wine Culture etc are good places to check out, as well as large departmental stores such as Takashimaya, Robinsons, Isetan, OG and John Little. Whether you wish to buy individual gift items, or gift sets, the above places provide great ideas and grab-and-go gift sets for the clueless or busy working professionals.

Nail or spa packages, or magazine subscriptions, or training (i.e. language? Photography?) courses are also good gifts for your loved ones, if you know what they want.

Or alternative ways of gift-ing?

"Oh, I just go shopping with my girlfriend or parents. Whatever they like, as long as it falls within my budget, I will buy it for them for Christmas," Kent*, a cabin crew concedes. "I am not really a very creative person when it comes to gift, so I'd prefer to get them something that I am sure they really like..."

Or how about exchanging wishlists with your partners or friends, then pick and choose from some of the items to buy? That way, you can buy each other something useful, something you are sure that each other will like, and know each other's rough budget and preferences.

"I didn't bother hitting the malls this year and squeezing with the rest," Melissa*, an Underwriter, quips. "I completed my Christmas online!" She goes on to explain how she selected gifts from online clothing stores or online accessories store instead of physically visiting the malls. She also makes use of good deals on discount platforms such as Groupon, I love Deals, StreetDeals etc, where she could even select the options for the gifts to be delivered to her friends directly. What a convenient, effortless, smart and efficient method to do Christmas shopping.

Gifts that Left Bad Impressions
Everyone loves receiving presents, especially nice presents.

However, there are those who complained about receiving bad presents before, stuffs that they wished they did not have. Ok, here we are not talking about perverse, psychotic gifts such as bloodied masks, severed hands or dead animals, don't worry.

"I really don't like those redundant gifts such as photoframes, cute pens or magnets etc... half the time I don't know what to do with these gifts that I'll never use anyway?" Sharona* complains. "Or soft toys? I am not a fan of these girly, cute-ish stuff, really... people who know me well enough should not give me these things... or cheaper accessories as I am already wearing branded accessories.... Ok, no body wash from weird, unheard of brands as well..."

Tim* recounts his own bad-gift-received experience as well. "Obscene gifts? I had some colleagues who were rather young and playful. After a funny performance that our team put up, they actually got me some ....er.... interesting glow-in-the-dark and edible undergarments. I guess they meant it to be amusing - good, clean fun.. but opening these in front of my wife on Christmas? She went ballistic!"

Yes, knowing your friends or colleagues is very vital. Beside being thoughtful of the usefulness of the gift itself, we should also take into consideration whether a certain gift is suitable for a particular occasion. I would think that if someone were to give amusing gifts like what Tim* received, they should pre-empt him, or have him open the gifts in office, to spare him (and his family members) the shock or embarrassment.

"There was once I got a gift from a girlfriend..... it was something from Citigems...it looked like an ordinary necklace with a tiny gem pendant.. however when I dug into the case, I found a tiny gift tag dated four months back....and there was a message from someone to my said friend... I was disgusted," Sharona* recounts.

Oh no... recycled gifts? Nothing very wrong, if the item is still brand new, I suppose? Sure, it is rather thoughtless... but if it is something of a certain value, and the receiver has never used, then probably it is still all right to give to friends (disclaimer: not as a gift though, not made to look like as though it was specially purchased for the special occasion) - but it is rather stupid if the person giving a recycled gift does not even bother to check for gift tags or other items that would give their secrets away.

Finally, Christine* shares her most remarkably negative gift. "There was one Christmas my bestie asked if I liked hamsters, and I said no, that my family wouldnt allow me to keep pets too... Then to my shock, she still passed me a tiny cage filled with two tiny hamsters and a packet of pet food!" The pretty receptionist sighed. "I was stunned, and furious, because I had already made it so clear that I did not want a hamster for Christmas, and my family does not like pets. By thrusting me such a gift, she is not respecting my wishes, and I in turn, was responsible for the lives of another (two) animals..."

Yes, please. If someone expresses their disdain for something, or they express their wishes that they would rather not have a certain item as a gift, please respect them and not give the exact items to them - unless there are very good reasons? If not, giving them gifts that they dislike, is worse than receiving a gift that is redundant.

The Joy of Giving
Now, having shared the above, about good gifts, bad gifts, gifting practices and experiences... well, wish everyone has a happy and enjoyable Christmas shopping experience!

While everyone is happily making purchases for gaily wrapped packages to make their loved ones happy, do take a little trouble and time to find some love for the needy as well - gifting is available for orphanages and elderly homes. Do check out the nearest collection centres to your homes / offices - share the joy, everyone!

Disclaimer: Names changed to protect privacy. This article and interview conducted herein is strictly the property of the Blog Owner who owns all copyright  © and no part of this work may be reproduced or republished without the permission of the Blog Owner. All Rights Reserved.

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