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Planned or in panic - famous Northern Ireland faces on their festive shopping habits

The countdown to Christmas is on with tills ringing out to the sound of people buying gifts. But what’s your personal strategy? Kerry McKittrick talks to well-known local personalities to find out if they stock up in advance or end up in a last-minute dash to the shops.

It may come as no surprise to learn that men and women approach Christmas shopping very differently, but now House of Fraser has the figures to prove it. According to a survey from the retailer, most men grab all their gifts in one day, whereas 76% of women pick up bits whenever they can, and are so forward-thinking that 86% of them shop in the January sales - for the following festive season, that is.

A mere 28% of men, on the other hand, use the discounts to purchase presents for the Christmas just gone - a tactic that's sure to land them on Santa's naughty list before the Twelve Days of Christmas are even over.

We talk to some local personalities about their shopping regime.

The countdown to Christmas is on with tills ringing out to the sound of people buying gifts. But what's your personal strategy? Kerry McKittrick talks to well-known local personalities to find out if they stock up in advance or end up in a last-minute dash to the shops .

The month before

Paul Pritchard (26) is the current Mr Northern Ireland and lives in Ballymena. He also manages an online physio supplies company. He says:

I usually have a plan for Christmas shopping before I even start, and have already done a lot of browsing online and some buying for friends and family.

I tend to buy lots of small gifts for people over the month of December, so nothing is too big or too expensive.

I know who I'm going to buy what for before I start shopping, which is done gradually over a few weeks.

Online shopping is a must as the crowds in town are so bad pre-Christmas. I try to avoid the shops if I can and do everything from my laptop.

The only time I go into the shops in town is when I know exactly what I'm looking for and where to get it.

I used to work in Hollister, which opened around Christmas time, so this time of year always reminds me of hundreds of people queueing outside the shops.

While I'm organised, I still don't shop too far ahead of Christmas Day.

I don't buy things in January and save them until Christmas because I would end up giving it to the person there and then. My gran does things like that - a couple of months ago she was buying up Schloer sparkling juice for Christmas because it was on offer. I just really don't get that.

Rebecca McKinney (29), who lives in Belfast, is a co-presenter of the Cool FM breakfast show. She says:

I'm a real December shopper - as I enjoy the buzz of proper Christmas shopping. It would take the fun out of it if I started too early.

While I don't leave present buying until Christmas Eve, I will go in then and pick a couple of things up - because you can get some amazing bargains.

Most of my shopping will be done about two weeks before Christmas.

I love the crowds, the trees and the Christmas music - it's such festive fun for me.

I don't even mind queuing - I love the fact that everyone is there for the same reason, which is nice.

I have an idea in my head before I start shopping. I probably think too much about what present I'll get for what person.

I would rather shop for other people than myself and, in fact, I used to do it for a living when I was a personal stylist at Victoria Square. So I absolutely love this time of year and buying presents for people.

While I've always been an advocate of shopping in stores, I have bought a few things online this year for the first time.

I haven't gone crazy, but there were a couple of good deals on Black Friday that I couldn't resist.

Big T (70), also known as Trevor Campbell, presents on Downtown Radio each weekday from 7pm. He lives in Moneyrea with his partner Vi. He says:

I prefer to shop when the Christmas trees are up and the festive music is playing. While I do my Christmas shopping myself, I'm usually advised in one way or another. If it's for the girls at work, then my partner Vi will direct me.

When it comes to buying gifts, I insist on going into the shop to feel the quality of whatever I'm buying and to make sure it's the right colour and size. And I usually do this throughout December.

Vi is the hardest person to buy for, and it doesn't help that we've been together for years. I ask her what she would like for Christmas, but if she mentions anything then I don't want to buy it for her because it won't be a surprise.

I try and keep an eye out for when she admires something in passing because then I can go in and get it the next day.

Her daughter is a great help there because she will mention something.

But I can't just get one thing, even it's expensive, because it looks miserly.

It's important to surround the main present with lots of other gifts.

One of my favourite places to shop is Menarys in Newtownards as it features lots of brands, and the girls in there know me.

They're pretty good with helping guys like me when it comes to buying presents for your other half, especially with clothes.

I love to give gifts, particularly if it's something I think the person will like.

The trick to getting the right present for the big day is to pick up wee hints.

I don't really mind if people don't get me anything - although, a good aftershave is a nice thing to have.

The week before

Emma Heatherington (40) is an author and playwright. She lives in Donaghmore with her partner, Jim and her four children, Jordyn (20), Jade (15), Adam (14) and two-year-old Sonny. She says:

I love leaving present buying until the middle of December so I can enjoy the full-on Christmas experience with lights and decorations in the shops.

I couldn't imagine doing the Christmas shopping in the middle of August - that just wouldn't be the same.

Maybe because I'm a mum of four there's always something else going on during the year, so there's no time for Christmas shopping other than at Christmas time.

I love combining the business side with pleasure side in the run-up to festivities, so Jim and I will nip down to Belfast or go away somewhere for the weekend so we can shop child-free.

I try to make it something special, so it's not just rushing around, grabbing stuff.

I would never shop for Christmas presents in November, or any other time of the year. Even if I saw the perfect present for someone, I just wouldn't buy it.

So sales events such as Black Friday just pass me by.

Because I have lots of brothers and sister, we do secret Santa so everyone only buys just the one present.

Then we have a get together at my dad's house on Christmas Eve to exchange our gifts - it's a nice tradition.

Christmas Eve

Paul Clark (62) is a TV presenter for UTV Live. He lives in Belfast with his wife, Carol, and they have two sons, Paul (28) and David (26). He says:

Any Christmas shopping I do myself, but I'm a bad festive shopper. I tend to do it at the eleventh hour, so it's not unheard of for me to start buying presents on Christmas Eve.

And when I go into town, I wonder why I can't find anything. Christmas Eve isn't as frantic as you might think as most people have it all done by then.

In recent years I have done some planning for the boys' gifts. My son David is a huge fan of Doctor Who in all of his incarnations, so I have gone online to track down DVDs of the series that were on TV before he was born.

Carol and I want for nothing, so we don't really get each other Christmas presents.

We might do something that's a token gift - perhaps a nice picture frame - but we both give a gift of money to the charity of each other's choice.

For Carol it's Saphara, a charity that empowers women and children through education in India, while I donate to either the Northern Ireland Hospice or the Salvation Army.

The shopping shirker

Dan Gordon (48) is an actor and playwright. He lives in Belfast with his wife, Kathy, and their daughters, Sarah (28), Hannah (25) and Martha (19). He says:

I'm shocking at Christmas shopping - I'm the last-minute panic buyer, if at all. I might order stuff on Amazon just before Christmas, but, to be honest, a lot of the time I just leave it to other people.

When the children were younger, I did buy some things online. These days all they want is money. Their accounts are all linked to mine and all they do is suck money out of it. When I do shop I try to get gifts that people need or I think they will like. I'm a big reader, so I buy a lot of books as presents for my family.

Recently I bought an anatomy book for my daughter because she's studying nursing, and I love mountains, so I bought a book on Everest for a young fella across the road.

One thing I'm mad about is stationery, so those who know me will get all the pens and notebooks and folders I could possibly need.

This year, for the first time in about 12 years, I'm not doing a Christmas show because I've been writing, so I've had a little more time to buy things in advance.

Belfast Telegraph


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