How To Survive Christmas Shopping In London
It’s Christmas Eve: the streets are sparkling with decorations, choirs are singing carols and families are gathered together. You, however, still have your shopping list to complete. According to a survey, this is a problem that faces 49.9 per cent of British adults who leave their festive shopping until Christmas Eve. While it’s meant to be the most wonderful time of year, there’s no denying that Christmas shopping can be stressful. Department stores and malls are a gift for shoppers, but as we discovered, not all shops are created equally. So, forget about Santa’s little helpers and use our guide to make Christmas shopping a merry rather than a miserable time.
Christmas is back, and this time it’s personal. In Selfridges, Elfridges (complete with Santa hats) have an encyclopedic knowledge of the store’s items and can offer gift ideas for free. Harrods’ By Appointment service is one of the largest in the world. Concierge services are in Westfield and Fortnum & Mason – at Westfield, your kids can be kept busy while you shop; meanwhile, Fortnum’s Concierge service has recently launched and is available by phone.
Food And Drink
Christmas shopping can feel like an expedition, so replenish with a festive feast. Fortnum & Mason excels: The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, which was opened by the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge, lets you indulge in an afternoon tea. Its other eateries include the glamorous 45 Jermyn Street, ice cream shop The Parlour and The Wine Bar. For comfort food, John Lewis has Neapolitan pizzas at Rossopomodoro, and gourmet burgers at Ham Holy Burger. To toast your shopping success, visit Harrods’ oyster, seafood or Champagne bars.
After lugging around suitcases, the last thing you want to do is carry yet more bags. Regent Street is the first hands-free shopping street in the country, thanks to Dropit, a fantastic service that lets you drop off your purchases and have them delivered to your hotel or home. Dropit points include 84, 132 and 245 Regent Street as well as many shops. Just download the app to track your bags. If you are transferring larger items, AirPortr is faster than Santa Claus on Christmas Eve – it delivers to and from Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports, as well as other destinations, in a matter of hours.
Spas And Salons
Sparkle like a Christmas tree courtesy of Urban Retreat at Harrods. From make-up to manicures, it will ensure you’re ready to party. Selfridges specialises in speedy beauty treatments: Daniel Hersheson creates catwalk-inspired blow dries in less than 30 minutes, while Cowshed has an Express menu, which includes an Express LED Facial that takes 15 minutes. Men can book an appointment at Liberty’s Murdock London – the traditional barbershop offers wet shaves, beard trims and a shoeshine. If you have some time to spare, relax at Fenwick’s Pure Massage, which is tailored to suit your needs.
Most of London’s department stores have accessible entrances, lifts, changing rooms and toilets, but they vary in distance to the most accessible Underground station. From the accessible Tube station Green Park, Harrods is an 11-minute bus ride away, while Fortnum & Mason is a five-minute walk away. At Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush and Westfield Stratford City, you can hire a manual wheelchair or motorised scooter from Shopmobility and there are Blue Badge parking bays, too. If you are having trouble carrying your purchases, Selfridges offers a complimentary Carry to Car service, or can help you to hail a taxi.
To make sure the staff can speak your language – literally – when it comes to gifts, some shops have foreign-language speakers. Selfridges has a wide range of interpreters, from Chinese and Russian to Swahili, Hausa and Farsi. If you need a particular language, ring the Information Desk in advance.
If you want a present to have your loved one’s name written all over it, then you can at House of Fraser, which offers personalised wrapping paper. Selfridges’ personalised wrapping service comes courtesy of luxury stationer Abigail Warner – look out for the customised stockings that can have names printed on them. Harrods’ wrapping service not only lets you choose the paper and ribbons, but it adds an extra gift to each parcel, from wooden toys to bouquets.
Most department stores offer tax back and have currency exchange services, so you don’t have to worry about not spending enough and being called a Scrooge. Global Blue and Premier Tax Free serve many department stores: Selfridges has a dedicated tax refund lounge that includes a VIP area, and in Westfield the Ice Bureau will give you a tax refund immediately.