It’s the holiday season: in London, the Christmas lights are twinkling, trees of various size are popping up in every square, and the air smells faintly of mulled wine. Have I bought any presents yet? Of course not. Because I’ve been busy and disorganized and, hurrah, the internet will let me take care of it all. Don’t get me wrong — I love a stroll round the shops as much as anyone — but going online opens up a world of retail possibilities one could only have imagined before.
Because Christmas is a time for sharing, I asked some friends to share their thoughts on online shopping with me. It used to be only children that wrote letters to Santa, but now grown-ups can do so as well. Before you even start browsing, knowing what a special someone wants can make the process easier. “Parents and husbands should know that many women keep a Pinterest wish list of gifts they’d like to receive,” one friend very subtly hinted.
Next, it means that you can find even the most obscure items to give. “All my son wants for Christmas is a cuddly toy pretzel with a face on it!” declared another friend. “Luckily Etsy has such a thing…. just hope it arrives in time.” Etsy got several shout-outs. You can set the search criteria to give you handmade products made in your local area. You can buy earrings made out of beetles. You can, sadly, no longer enjoy its worst excesses on Regretsy, but they were hilarious.
The fact is, with eBay, Etsy, Iwantoneofthose and others, anyone can turn their unique gift for making felt ravioli into a literal gift. The internet has succeeded in scaling up cottage industry, and lots of people prefer a charming handmade gift to traipsing round the shops. “It’s more the agony and the ecstasy of ‘will the post room people get so fed up with my parcels that they cease delivering them to my desk?!’ — Husband had a 7 foot Christmas tree and two chainsaws delivered to work, ordered online,” says another friend. She didn’t mention why he needed so many chainsaws. Let’s just acknowledge that we all approach the festive season in our own unique way.