How to nail your Christmas shopping in one fell swoop by heading to the capital12th Dec 18 | Lifestyle
London's Oxford Street has secret services you need to know about, says Claire Spreadbury.
It’s pitch black, raining sideways and I’ve had a day from hell in the office.
London’s Oxford Street welcomes me with a rainbow of lights, reiterating the reason I’m here: ‘Christmas is calling’ is written in the sky, and I have approximately two-and-a-half hours to sort out my festive shopping.
The personal shopper you need to know
It’s a tall order, but as I take a seat in a quiet little side room in John Lewis and slurp a glass of champagne, all my troubles seem to fade away.
Chris Payne, personal shopper and royal warrant liaison is telling me all about a service which will change the way I Christmas shop forever. Essentially, I can give him, or his team of personal shoppers, a wish list.
Maybe you still need to buy your entire family’s Christmas presents. Or you might be really struggling with a gift for your 90-year-old nan. Perhaps you fancy treating a partner to a coat or a handbag – both notoriously tricky gifts to buy. And without paying any additional money or having a set minimum spend, Oxford Street’s John Lewis will do all the hard work for you. You can just simply pay the bill at the end – if you like what they produce.
I put Fiona, a former personal stylist of 17 years and now part of this elite shopping team (who looks utterly fabulous – every inch of her colour-coordinated with her grey fingernails), to the test.
I pretend to be my husband buying me a handbag. As we make our way down to the bag section, we walk every stand while she asks questions to ascertain style credentials and personal needs. Are brand names important? Would I want something that’s practical? What colours do I wear? And all questions my other half would be able to answer. In the end, there’s a choice of at least three bags he could have picked, and I would have been genuinely happy with any of them.
I’m so impressed, I instantly hand over a list of all the remaining people and gifts I need to shop for, and set the team to work.
And while they’re off selecting gifts for your nearest and dearest, you can peruse the behind-the-scenes mini exhibition of this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert. Play Elton John’s signed piano, watch the documentary and marvel at the gorgeously retro recording studio and fabulous threads worn in the ad. There’s also a working piano on every floor of the store, so if you fancy a singalong while they take the hard work out of Christmas shopping, you’re in the right place.
Make use of interactive aides
Over the road at Swarovski, they too understand that shopping has to be an experiential pleasure now. Because why else would we pound busy pavements rammed with people instead of clicking online and splashing our cash there?
There’s a great ‘virtual try-on’ screen, where you can photograph and adorn yourself in jewellery. Plus a selfie booth and glittery red telephone box, begging for a Boomerang, and a wireless charging hub, though you’ll need an iPhone 8 or equivalent.
They will also gift wrap your goods, which is always a godsend, and have four stylists to tend to your needs. So, if you describe what you want, retail assistants can pick out the perfect something.
Pamper and purchase at the same time
At Lush‘s three-storey sanctuary, if you’re starting to feel a bit weary, book in for one of their speedy spa treatments and float back out to the high street. They have an array of gift sets, ranging from £10-£275, to suit even the most sustainable shopper. And kids will love their smellies – from the fidget spinner bath bomb to the limited edition sweetie-smelling Snow Fairy range – only available for three months of the year and a huge hit with young girls.
So, I’ve hit three shops, spent less than three hours in London’s busiest street, admired the twinkling baubles lighting up the sky and I’m all sorted for Christmas. And what’s more, it’s not just been a breeze, but genuinely enjoyable.
I smugly sashay my way towards Marble Arch and look lovingly into Selfridges’ windows before taking a seat beneath Damien Hirst’s 24ft crystal-encrusted Pegasus statue in the Brasserie Of Light restaurant. Safe in the knowledge all my Christmas shopping is done, I tuck into a delicious plant-based main of avocado, poached eggs and ancient grains (£13.95), followed by their enormous Golden Apple dessert (£7.95), which is essentially a tart of dreams. Crispy pastry, sweet apple, salted caramel ice cream and candied pecans, all washed down wonderfully with some pink champagne.
Make a night of it
As my lids start to feel weary, I walk a short distance to Hyatt Regency hotel, The Churchill (rooms from around £280 a night). The rain shower washes away any remaining cares I have left and the giant, sumptuous bed envelopes me as I drift off to sleep.
It’s midnight, and in the space of a single evening, I’ve nailed all of my Christmas shopping on London’s busiest street, enjoyed a little TLC, indulged in a delicious dinner and bagged myself a good night’s sleep and a cheeky hotel breakfast in the morning.
The rain is still sideways but my mind is straight. I’m doing my festive shopping sprees like this every year.
© Press Association 2018