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Christmas cheer going for a song

Jaymi Hensley of Union J and one of the stars of Aladdin switched on the Christmas lights in Northampton

The Christmas lights are on and the festive shopping season is underway. Julie Teckman sniffs out some goldmines for gifts in Northampton…

For the shopaholic, any time of year that offers an excuse to hit the shops has got to be a bonus, and Christmas leads the way in providing opportunities to wander around with loaded shopping bags (even if you have to pay for the nice ones these days) or sit at home indulging in an orgy of online browsing. It’s the best time of year for guilt-free spending and, what’s even better, is that other people love you for it! If you start Christmas shopping early enough, you can even give yourself time to find the things you fancy yourself for the Christmas wishlist that, left in an obvious place, can ensure that you too enjoy the celebrations.

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Christmas shopping works best when it’s done in a leisurely, stress-free manner, which pretty much rules out large shopping centres (fighting through crowds doesn’t create an enjoyable experience) or last minute shopping (women know when their presents have been purchased five minutes before closing time on Christmas Eve, trust me on that one, gents). And it really comes into its own when it’s done where you can easily pop into a coffee shop or bar for refreshment without having to make the rest of the family a brew (or a snack) which is so often the case when shopping online. And let’s not even get started on the need to arrange for delivery which inevitably ends up with so many visits to the parcel depot that you end up having to buy a Christmas card for your new best mate there too!

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So, the best way to get Christmas shopping completed in as stress-free and leisurely way as possible, even for the shopaphobic (new word) is to plan carefully before leaving the house and take a list of everybody who will require a gift this Christmas (and I mean everybody. There’s nothing more likely to dampen the spirit that the casual visitor who drops by with a ‘little something’ on Christmas Eve, and sends you into a frenzy of unwrapping wrapped presents to find something you can give to them instead, so make sure there are a few extras on hand). Finally make sure you’ve read the advice I’m about to dispense, and you can do the lot in just one bash.

The truth is, this Christmas, there really is no need to travel any distance to find a fantastic selection of Christmas stuff for everyone and the choice locally for both gifts and Christmas decorations is much better than you might imagine. And, actually you don’t need to imagine what’s available because I’ve done the legwork for you and now present for you my guide to making this Christmas a glittering occasion which will enable you to stay local and bathe in the gratitude of loved ones this Christmas day.
So, where to start? Well, I’m going to direct you right into the middle of Northampton to St Giles Street which continues to deserve its reputation for offering classy independent shopping with parking available all around it.

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Fairly new to the street is Mooch, a gift shop which goes beyond the obvious, offering a variety of gifts from quirky books (including a lot about gin!) to leather footstools and an exquisite range of candles and diffusers made in the Abington area of Northampton. Ranges like The Velvet Co, with its beautiful white packaging and interestingly different selection of scents, will surely charm anyone who enjoys a bit of luxury surrounding them. The choice of Christmas decorations and lights add to the already fabulous offer in the little shop which has recently opened a second floor. I could happily move in and live there but will have to make do with shopping for gifts including scarves, jewellery, ornaments and household bits.

Further up the street, the longer established and very popular Peppertrees continues to offer gorgeous smelling gifts and cards for all tastes, and just few doors further up, St Giles Cheese, owned by Steve and Caroline Ward, is the place to shop for foodie friends who appreciate artisanal products from the local area and throughout Europe, and relatives who appear to have almost everything it’s possible to own and may now only have room for gifts it’s possible to eat or drink.

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On the other side of the street, are two shops that might not immediately seem obvious when Christmas shopping but which both offer interestingly different ideas for presents and Christmas decorations. No matter how many Christmas decorations you’ve collected over the years, I defy you not to be tempted when you get upstairs in Abraxas, the kitchen shop, and see the stunning display of decorations and gift ideas laid out there. From glass baubles to furry woodland animals there’s something for everyone whether you prefer your Christmas colour co-ordinated and simple or multi-coloured and ornate.
Just a few doors down, Coleman’s stationery shop comes into its own at this time of year.

Even if you’ve never been tempted to make your own Christmas cards or decorations, you may decide to give it a go when you see the range of paper, crafting sets and ideas on display. And the shop is also well stocked with jigsaws for all ages, and art kits and proper toys, of the kind we used to get at Christmas, for the children (just in case Santa starts running out of ideas). Even if you don’t need to buy for children, the display will guarantee feelings of nostalgia that will remind you why kids love Christmas so much.

32 The Guild stocks items that you rarely find outside of London, with amazing scents, books and accessories that will suggest you’ve travelled a good deal further than Guildhall Rd in your attempt to add something stunning to a special person’s gift pile. Many products are unisex so are ideal presents for anybody who you think may let you use them too!

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Moving out of town there are several great independent shops that not only stock a great selection of gifts and decorations but also offer easy, free parking, which is always a bonus. Una Casa on the Wellingborough Road has a brilliant selection of men’s gifts as well as women’s alongside unusual and brilliantly priced decorations. From grooming sets to cufflinks and trinkets, the shop has ideas for significant others, male friends and work colleagues. It’s also a great place for Secret Santa ideas, and you can often park right outside enabling you to stagger to the car with your shopping. Upstairs, gifts can be personalised and given a special touch to make them truly unique.

And over at St Crispin’s Retail Village in Duston, Story, the new boutique which celebrated its first anniversary in November, stocks a fabulously glamorous array of women’s presents, from candles and jewellery to bags, scarves and shoes, all carefully selected to appeal to the females in your life, no matter what age.

It’s clear that you only have to scratch the surface of independent shopping in Northampton to find a fantastic range of well-priced, beautifully made and unusual gifts for friends and family this Christmas so if you don’t fancy the hassle of parking, the massive crowds and the overwhelming choice of stuff on offer at the huge retail outlets that surround the town, have a go at shopping locally. All the shops mentioned have great websites too, so you can take a look before you venture out or shop online if you really want to avoid human contact when you do your Christmas shopping…).
The only problem you might find is that your purchases are just too nice to share, and that you’d like to treat yourself too. And that’s why the January sales were invented! Happy Christmas Shopping!

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