Norwich’s fairy godmother of gifts

A Norwich shopping survey has found that many of us have mixed feelings about Christmas shopping. Emma Harrowing discovers a free service that could be the fairy godmother to gift-buying woes.

Christmas shopping can bring out the fear in anyone – the long queues, hustle and bustle of the crowds, and your aching feet and bag-carrying arms that feel like they have gone several rounds in the gym.

Then there is the long list of names of people you need to get presents for. What do you get them? Where can you buy that must-have item from? Would a pair of socks be suitable for Uncle Bill even though he has received socks from you for the last three years?

It's no surprise that many of us dislike shopping for Christmas presents. Along with indecision over what to buy, with today's busy schedules we don't have much time to get out there to shop. It can feel like you will never get everything done before the big day.

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone help you do your gift shopping? A sort of fairy godmother who can help you find the right gift for all your family and friends and who could even pick out the bargains and save you money.

Your wish has been granted. As part of Chapelfield's Santa's Little Helper initiative, the shopping centre is offering a free accompanied gift-shop service. The personal shopping service has been introduced after Chapelfield carried out research and found most people in Norwich have mixed feelings about Christmas shopping.

Sheridan Smith, Chapelfield's marketing manager, explains: 'For the first time we've put together a team of trained Christmas shopping advisors who are on site every day up until Christmas. Based at two pods situated at our Chapelfield Plain and St Stephen's Street entrances, customers can make a brief visit to ask for quick tips, directions or advice. But there is also the opportunity to book a more in-depth session with one of our team, where the customer can have a free, accompanied shopping trip around the centre to find the perfect gifts for those 'hard-to-buy-for' loved ones.'

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The accompanied gift-shop appointment is said to make Christmas shopping easier. When you make an appointment a personal shopper will ask you who you want to shop for and what is your budget, then in time for your appointment the shopping advisor will have found some gift ideas in the shops that you can pick from.

'Not only can the accompanied gift-shop service save you time and stress, it may also be able to save you money,' says Sheridan.

'Importantly you'll be able to find the right gift to show you really care about the recipient.'

Chrissi Rix is leading Chapelfield's Christmas shopping team. Here are Chrissi's top tips for an enjoyable and stress-free Christmas shopping experience:

What to buy – listen carefully for hints from family and friends. If you don't have a clear idea of what they might like, write down their favourite hobbies and interests to help with gift ideas. If you're still unsure, don't be afraid to ask what they might like.

Get organised – make a list of everyone you need to buy for. Think about two or three stores that may have what you need so you have gift choices and price options. Plan your route and try to be systematic.

Allow yourself time – try to spread your shopping over a few trips. Make the most of late-night shopping so you don't feel stressed having to cram everything into a few hours. A little time spent browsing can spark imagination and prevent regretful spending on impulse buys!

Ask for help and advice in shops – retail staff are there to help you and can provide some great advice about gift ideas because they know exactly what's in the store. Don't forget to ask about any offers or discounts to save a little money. Use gift guides and online brochures to spark ideas. Wrap presents creatively – many shops have lovely, free wrapping services so make the most of them to save yourself time. Alternatively, make an inexpensive gift look exciting using beautiful or unusual wrapping. Try simple brown paper spiced up with red ribbon and cinnamon sticks; or metallic paper with contrasting ribbon for a stylish, minimalist look. Whether you prefer a traditional or contemporary style, add your personal touches to show you care.

A free accompanied gift-shop usually lasts about 60 minutes. For more information log on to the website at or e-mail to book.