/ Shopping

Have you started your Christmas shopping?

With a steady stream of warnings of shortages this festive season, we want to know – have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

A chorus of retailers have been urging shoppers to crack on with Christmas shopping for a good month or so now. 

There are 52 days to go until Christmas Day and seven shopping weekends left. In theory, there’s plenty of time left to buy your Christmas food, treats and presents. 

A near-normal Christmas?

This year might be a little different to your usual Christmas – we’re not in lockdown (we hope), so it should be a near-normal Christmas in comparison to last year. However, we are contending with the many warnings of shortages in the shops.

Some parents may be fearing the risk of not being able to get their hands on this year’s most coveted toys, hoping they won’t have to resort to a Schwarzenegger-esque re-enactment of Jingle All the Way…

Last week, we conducted a poll on Twitter asking people if they’ve bought any Christmas presents yet. Of the 662 votes, 41% said no, 33% said they had, 16% hadn’t started but were considering it and 10% told us they don’t buy presents.

Have you started your Christmas shopping?
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Returns policies

We’re warning shoppers thinking of buying presents now to double check the returns policies before you buy

We recently took a look at the returns policies of some of the UK’s leading toy retailers – now they’ve released all their Christmas promotions and marketing spiel, we wanted to know if they’d extended their returns period to something reasonable for their customers feeling the pressure to buy presents now. 

A couple had already extended their policies and most have done so now, although they were a little late (in my opinion) considering many have long been advertising Christmas promotions, listed the ‘most wanted’ toys this Christmas and panicking shoppers with warnings of shortages.

Interestingly, Hamleys offers a generous policy of 60 days for a return and 90 for exchange all year round. However, that’s not so helpful if you’re buying more than two months out from the big day. 

Returns problems and your rights

While you’re likely to find most returns policies have now been extended, it’s worthwhile double checking. 

In a survey of Christmas shoppers carried out in January this year, we found that one in seven had to return a present and just under half (48%) had a problem with a return. 

Returns policies do not affect your statutory rights. The Consumer Rights Act gives you the legal right to either get a refund for goods that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose or not as described, or get it repaired – depending on how long you’ve owned it.

So I’d like to hear from you – have you started Christmas shopping? Have you started earlier than you usually do? Do you feel pressured to buy early? Do you have any tips for Christmas shopping? 


No, I haven’t. I have to get past Black Friday first.

Having introduced a completely artificial buying event into the UK shopping calendar, Currys are now urging us to “beat” the Black Friday rush by buying early in the pre-Black Friday sale.

Next year we will have the sale to avoid the pre-Black Friday sale rush to avoid the Black Friday sale rush. Eventually, Black Friday will lap itself and the NHS will collapse under the weight of patients needing treatment for dyschronometria.

Samir says:
8 November 2021

Hi who can like to join me for tour

Yet another travel / trade pressure group misusing the BBC, to put out misleading information to a population that is still only 80% vaccinated against foreigners bringing in Covid-19:

London outlook

In central London retailers have forecast that festive spending will hit £1.2bn, which is a third up on last year, but still half of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

Crucially, though, trading rates are down by more than half, and “West End retailers are facing a challenging festive period due to the continued absence of high spending international travellers”, the New West End Company said.

The company, which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners in Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, called for the government to bring back tax-free shopping for non-EU visitors, which was scrapped after the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020.

Since those tax-free sales were ended, places such as Paris and Milan “have benefited from a 20% price advantage over the UK – a situation the West End desperately wants re-examined – pushing the UK further down the travel wish-list of festive holidaymakers, particularly high spenders from non-EU countries”, the company said.

What 20% price advantage?

Firstly, another schoolboy maths howler! VAT in France is 20% – Italy 22%. Tax free shopping is then, at best an 18% price reduction in Italy, 16.67% in France. If you are going to whinge at HMRC, at least do the maths correctly, or are they as gullible as you think the rest of us are? I wish!

Furthermore, getting anything like the full VAT relief is hard work. Most retailers operate through a scheme like Global Blue who handle the paperwork, for a whacking great fee that comes out of your tax savings. I was in Berlin last week and bought an item for €90. I would get back €7 – a “discount” of less than 8% to me after rebating the 19% VAT. Well, it’s “free money – there must be some Brexit dividend” I thought, until I saw the length of the queue to get the customs export stamp at the airport.

But I think they are complaining on behalf of non-EU citizens.

The company, which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners in Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, called for the government to bring back tax-free shopping for non-EU visitors

Why would they be doing that exactly? It is just another trade body that has the begging bowl out for yet more concessions from British tax payers, to boost their own members’ income and profits. I don’t mind them asking, but I do object to them being convenient with the truth when making their case.

Tax-free shopping is still available in Britain, but you can no longer export the goods in person. You have to ask the retailer to ship the items to your residential address abroad. Of course, retailers don’t want the hassle, but nor does this system divert UK Customs officers at points of departure, who have better things to do than inspect holiday trinkets simply to save work for the retailers.

To take two practical examples, for Chinese and Canadian visitors the abolished VAT Retail Export Scheme concession was probably worth around £100 at best, by the time the visitor has paid the equivalent import duties to their respective countries. Not much for a “high spender” to worry about.

However, VAT on hospitality (also payable by foreign visitors and never reclaimable) was only 5% until 30th September this year. It has now been increased to 12.5% until at least 31st March 2022. But that is still below the 20% standard rate, and represents a significant reduction in the cost of London hotels, other accommodation, restaurants and attractions. If that is not enough to bring in foreign visitors without the additional perk of a VAT-free Mulberry handbag, then the New West End Company is not doing a very good job of promoting Britain as a shopping destination, or its members are pocketing the VAT savings.

Finally, let’s not forget that these same enterprises furloughed 1,650,000 employees, costing British tax payers around 25% of the £66bn claimed up until the end of September 2021. (Figures taken from UK Government sources). It seems Sir would now like gravy with that, whilst the rest of us can do with less and pay more in tax and NI to make up the difference.

Started it, finished it. Usually get it done by the end of November but started early this year just in case.

Cross potato crisps off your shopping list. There is already a shortage on the shelves. Now the Walkers factory has caught fire. One clown is trying to auction a pack on eBay with an £8 opening bid.

Try Kettle chips instead, made in Norfolk from local potatoes.

The frazzled ex-Leicester City soccer pundit must be getting a touch of the quavers if his bonus is volume-related.

It’s rumoured that Walker’s were producing a new limited edition crisp called Black Fry Day – before it all went horribly wrong.

Citizens should be reassured that a few weeks without some potato crisps should not give rise to any abnormal clinical conditions although the psychiatric services need will be on the alert for any adverse emotional reactions and withdrawal symptoms.

Let’s hope that normal service is resumed in time for the great binge-fest.

I feel sorry for the potato farmers and the purveyors of onions and vinegar.

Should save quite a bit of unrecyclable packaging waste then?
Was the Walkers’ factory burnt to a crisp?

I think the Wotsits survived.