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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020
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'The quietest time is 11am to 1pm': How to tackle the city's Christmas shopping trails like a pro

Some tactical tips from self-proclaimed ‘smart shopper’ Caroline Foran.

Christmas shoppers on Dublin's Grafton Street.
Christmas shoppers on Dublin's Grafton Street.
Image: Sam Boal/Rolling News

AS DECEMBER 25 BECKONS, the time for gift buying is now, unless of course you’re one of those smug folks who ‘got it all done before Halloween’.

For the rest of us mere mortals, myself included, this two week window is our time to shine. And because we’ve left it until it’s genuinely ‘Christmastime’, we should have the advantage of enjoying some of the atmosphere too.

The thing is, city centres are getting busier by the day, the crowds are getting bigger, the queues are getting longer, taxis are becoming more elusive and parking comes with its own set of headaches. So we’ve got to be clever.

Scouting stores is a big part of my work as an interiors stylist, so I’ve become a self-proclaimed ‘smart shopper’. As a result, I have a few pointers on how to get everything done and enjoy it too…

1. Make a beeline for the side streets

5531 Arnotts window_90558032 Source: RollingNews.ie

Yes, Dublin’s Grafton Street or Cork’s Patrick Street with their twinkly lights are certainly Insta worthy, but when you’re on a gift gathering mission, the crowds will slow you down and fast track you towards both frustration and fatigue. By all means enjoy the lights, but only when you’re done.

Or do what I do: allow yourself to stroll up the main street, and then make a beeline for the side streets to get your gifts. Dublin wise, think Crow Street, Clarendon St, Drury Street, Fade St, South Great Georges St and Powerscourt Townhouse in the city centre – my favourite city streets where shopping is a pleasure. Think less busy, more buzzy.

In Cork, head to French Church Street and Drawbridge Street. In Galway, Cross Street is the place to be.

2. Between 11 and 1 is your golden time for quiet shops 

If the hot spots and busy streets are unavoidable for you, here’s what to do: keep it midweek and shift your lunch hour forward or back, when things are much quieter.

Midweek mornings are always more calm but the best time to shop, in my experience, is actually just before the lunch rush between 11am and 1pm.

What’s more, do your research, thinking about what you would like to get for whom so that when you have to hit these busy areas, you hit your marks without getting swallowed up.

3. Swap department store food courts for a coffee on the go

ali-yahya-411977-unsplash Source: Unsplash

Ticking off your gift list will become even more of an experience (and less of a panic) if you build in a treat that either breaks up your day or rewards you at the end.

Rules of thumb: never shop hungry, but don’t be too full and therefore sleepy either. Your best bet is an energy-boosting takeaway coffee on Exchequer or Capel St in Dublin – The English Market is a must in Cork City – and something more filling and rewarding after you’ve gotten the bulk of things bought (take yourself to Middle Street in Galway).

Truth be told, nothing makes your shopping trip less appealing than a department store cafeteria, so avoid this at all costs. Plan ahead and pick a place where you’re certain to end up. If it’s more than a sticky bun you’re after, book a reservation to avoid disappointment. 

4. Can’t bear the queues? Skip the usual suspects

Large department stores are great if you want to get everything under one roof, but if you’re not a fan of queuing, they can be overwhelming.

I’m a fan of ordering online for in-store pick-up, which is sometimes actually less hassle than having a delivery arrive at your door when you’re not home.

Aside from that, think outside of the usual suspects. Ireland’s independent scene is currently thriving with brilliant, hardworking retailers tucked away on less trodden city streets. You’ll be in and out without the queues or crowds.

5. Hit the ATM before you start (and consider a cab home)

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING 084_90532328 Source: Sam Boal

Plan ahead for your day of shopping by factoring in the cost of a taxi home – meaning you’re not stressed out on the bus with bags of presents. Bus it in then hail a cab home.

Grabbing one on the street once should be easy unless you’re headed home with the revellers after midnight. I have made this mistake many a time and it is just not worth the extra pint. Leaving the car will open you up to the possibility of a festive tipple and cut out the car parking rigmarole. 

Pro tip: have cash on you from the beginning of the day so that when you’ve had enough, you’re not then faced with queuing for an ATM.

6. Ditch the friend for some solo shopping

On the subject of getting in and out, also give some thought to who you bring along. If you’re a better solo shopper, be firm. I am brilliant at shopping with other people if it’s for them, but if I’m the one buying, I need that headspace.

Give yourself an hour with no distraction and then make a plan to regroup for your post shopping treat, at which point you’ve gotten what you need and can still soak up some of the atmosphere without the pressure. The idea of ‘divide and conquer’ is always more efficient and then you’ve got more fun time at the end.

7. Use a gift wrapping service or skip the wrapping entirely

And when you’ve bought the gifts you’re done, right? Wrong. For some, the act of gift wrapping is nothing more than a nuisance.

If you’re of this ilk, avail of in-store gift wrapping services or – for those stores that don’t offer it – forget the wrapping entirely and go with gift bags and tissue paper or vintage style gift boxes which you’ll find for a few euro.

For those who look forward to sitting down with the double-sided tape in hand, consider reusing yesterday’s newspaper to wrap your gifts. It’s a good way of recycling, it’s kinder to the environment and if you invest in some stylish twine, the finished look can be incredibly chic. This will also eliminate the inconvenience of sourcing and lugging long rolls of wrapping paper around the city. 

More: ‘It made it all feel real’: Our first Christmas with our 12-week-old daughter>

More: Debate – Does Santa wrap your Christmas presents?>

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