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      Top tips for buying the right gift

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      Buying a Christmas gift may seem like a simple task, but for some it’s a real mission. Whether you’re buying for your colleagues, helping you boss out with his or her friends and family, or searching for your own loved ones, get Christmas all wrapped up at the UK’s biggest high-end Christmas shopping event. The Spirit of Christmas Fair returns to Olympia London for its 16th year this 31 October-6 November. Here, Fair Director and Shopping Expert Thi Dinh gives her top tips for finding the perfect presents.

      Start early
      By planning in advance, you will have time to personalise gifts such as monograming, or opt for bespoke pieces. Gifts with a personal touch are hugely popular and on-trend at the moment, making gift giving that much more special! When you have time on your hands, you are more likely to stick to your Christmas list and can afford to be more thoughtful about the purchases rather than feeling like you have to buy an average or impersonal gift because it’s getting late and you’ve run out of time.

      Buying for your partner’s family
      Buying for your partner’s family is extremely tricky, particularly at Christmas; you want to make a good impression all-round but your budget isn’t limitless, so where do you draw the line? Take your lead from your partner. If they are purchasing gifts for particular family members, it’s probably wise to have them covered from your side too but stick to the immediate family, you really don’t need to worry about the great aunt or cousin who visits once a year.

      If in doubt, I would suggest getting a joint present with your partner for their parents and siblings. And if you are spending Christmas with their family, one clever trick to keep things under control is to suggest Secret Santa-style gifting – that way everybody is clear on how many gifts they need to buy, who they’re buying for, and there is no worrying about budgets. Best of all, you will forever be remembered as “the fun one”. A win all-round!

      Buying for the mother-in-law
      Buying beauty products can be a minefield if you’re not careful with the product description. Pay attention to the wording on the package – avoid buying anything that refers to their age or advancing years at all costs, unless they have specifically requested it! So “preventative” anti-ageing products that “tackle deep lines and wrinkles” is out of the question. Instead, opt for aromatherapy products for relaxation or bathing treats that encourage a bit of indulgence, but choose boutique or high-end brands as opposed to your everyday pharmacy products.

      Men: Buying lingerie for your girlfriend/wife
      Even PAs sometimes get roped into helping a male boss pick out something special for their wives (the joys of being someone’s right hand). The key thing to remember when buying lingerie is to keep it classy – base the styles on lingerie she currently wears so you can’t go too far wrong. If going for lacy numbers, stick to classic colours such as black, red, or nude. In addition, know your sizes – a visual guestimate is not a rule to go by and not even the best customer service teams can work with hand gestures so make sure you come prepared. Alternatively, I’d recommend some luxury loungewear (i.e. posh pyjamas), which is an increasingly popular choice for women. And brownie points if you choose cashmere or silk!

      ‘Emergency’ presents
      Everybody should have a ready supply of ‘emergency’ gifts in the event of one-sided gifting or when you’ve simply forgotten – nobody need ever know. Look for gender-neutral gifts such as food hampers or wines and champagnes; but the key to not making it look like a last-minute supermarket buy (one of the two biggest faux pas in gifting) is to go for boutique brands, so pick some up at shopping fairs or on holiday. And never, under any circumstances, re-gift presents you’ve been given (introducing faux pas number two) – these have a funny habit of making their way round to the original giver, as they often tend to be used as emergency gifts in the first instance.

      Beat the crowds
      You get to avoid the Christmas chaos and shop at your own leisure when it is less hectic. Plus, the shops are more likely to be tidier and better displayed during off-peak time, making it easier for you to find what you’re looking for. Always plan for unexpected factors. Ordering gifts through the post may take longer than anticipated, especially during the holidays, so allow a generous time buffer for your snail mail. Or, perhaps you’ll find that you and a friend had the same gift idea for someone. Leave yourself enough time to make changes in case something unforeseen comes up.

      The Spirit of Christmas Fair brings together some of the UK’s best boutique brands, making it the ultimate home of Christmas shopping. With a collection of 750 independent retailers and designers who will stock more than one million items each day, there’s certainly something for everyone – gifts, home, fashion, baby and child, decorations, health and beauty to jewellery and men’s. To get tickets, visit

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      Molly Dyson

      Former Editor – PA Life

      All stories by: Molly Dyson