Last-minute Christmas shopping: When to buy, when to avoid the malls and how to find the best deals

After what has been a long year, it seems that Christmas has crept on us.

With just a week to go until the big day, here are some tips to remember when planning your last-minute dash to the shops.

Personal shopper and blogger Caitlin Taylor, who spends at least five days a week in the mall and shops for a living, recommends that shoppers hit the shops first thing in the morning on a weekday or last thing in the evening to avoid the typical Christmas rush.

Planning when you will go shopping is the key to making the outing a success, she says.

“Most malls have extended trading hours over Christmas so if you can plan to go very first thing on a weekday; I always find is really good, because you’ll get a car park, all of the stores are in order and all the stock is on the shelf, retail staff are in a good mood because they just started their day, or you can always go later at night,” Taylor tells the Herald.

She says between 8-9pm is a good time to hit the typically busy malls as most people don’t visit then and are usually at home eating dinner.

And if you can get your last-minute shopping done this week, even better, she says, as December 23 and 24 are notorious for being the busiest days of the year.

“Choosing when you go shopping is a really important one, another thing that is super important, and I do all the time with my clients and is helpful at Christmas time, is having a list, so you’re not just wandering around.

“Have a list – it means that your shopping more efficiently and effectively so you are in and out quicker.” She even recommends taking a physical printout of the list to make it easier to ask retail staff for what it is you’re looking for.

Set yourself a budget for gifts, and stick to it.

If you’re struggling for gift ideas – gift cards, as boring as they sound, gift cards are a smart option, says Taylor. “It’s always one of those gifts that people see as a cop-out.

“But actually if someone doesn’t know what to buy for me, I’d rather them give me a gift card so I have the choice.”

For kids, perhaps look for something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read, recommends Taylor, who is also mall operator Kiwi Property’s resident fashion blogger.

Create a list and do your research on products you may want to buy online before you hit the shops. “Jump on your local mall website, see what stores are at the mall and then jump on those store’s websites; do your browsing before you turn up.”

“It’s all about making that dash into the mall more efficient, more effective and less painful.”

Taylor recommends that shoppers keep their shopping trips to a maximum of two hours, and if you need more time in the shops, break it up into two trips.

Anything longer than that and you’ll “start to get really tired, you’ll start to get decision fatigue, your brain starts to wander, hungry and physically it can be a lot as you are literally walking around a mall.

“I’ve found that two hours is most people’s limit when it comes to shopping, and so with Christmas, break it up; plan to do maybe two two-hour shops rather than a run all day.”

Utilise the internet and online tools to influence your decision-making, says Taylor.

Sylvia Park and LynnMall websites, for example, display how many car parking spaces are available. “If you look and there are five spaces free, don’t go then, that’s not going to be fun.”

Her last piece of advice? Be nice to retail staff – you’ll get more out of them, says Taylor.

“They are working really hard, really long hours and the nicer you are the more helpful they are going to be.”

BOXING DAY SALES

And if shopping for Xmas gifts before the big day is not your thing and you instead wait for everything to go on sale, Taylor says most goods are generally cheaper on December 26.

Black Friday has better deals and savings discounts for electronics, but Boxing Day has better deals for clothes, shoes, make-up, linen and homewares.

Her tip for making the most of Boxing Day sales? Wait for the day after.

“The deals are generally still there, and Boxing Day can generally be hectic. If you don’t like crowds, don’t do Boxing Day – on the 27th December you are going to get just as many good deals as you will on the 26th.”

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