With the collapse of HMV we are seeing another high street retailer close its doors - sad news for their employees, but also sad for high streets around the country and for their former customers. We've seen a pattern of closures over the last few years, although some chains that have edged towards collapse have been saved at the last minute. The first part of this pattern is that gift vouchers and other forms of credit are halted, and shortly after, stores are closed, either selectively or wholesale.
Closure of so many retailers has left consumers with millions of pounds of worthless gift vouchers and gift cards. In these troubled times it really makes you think about the value of these lines of shop credit. The recent recsession has hit every retailer and it's almost impossible to predict who will go next. The worst part is that customers have loyally bought gift vouchers as a way of gifting money with the intention to buy something fun, so that the money doesn't just end up paying the bus fare or for a drink. However, these same customers would be heartbroken to learn that their gift was now worthless.
In hard times it really does beg the question as to whether you should gift vouchers or rather give money instead. While it may be considered vulgar to give money (who perpetuates that myth?!), at least money will keep its value, is universally accepted and immune to the collapse of individual stores.
If you want to gift money to your children, nephews, nieces or friends for their birthdays or other events, then consider carefully how safe that gift is. The store you have in mind may seem to be trading buoyantly but we tend to sit on gift vouchers...how will that store fare 6 months or a year from now? In this uncertain economic climate, perhaps it's time we saw a return to the traditional gifting of money. At least your hard earned cash won't be written off overnight at some time in the future...
Over the last few years we've noticed that the cost of toys across many retail websites, and in shops, see a marked increase as Christmas approaches, and worse than that, stock availability is often poor during the festive season. Sometimes the price of individual items rises, in other instances, special offers that were available in earlier parts of the year disappear in the run-up to Christmas.
Our advice is to do your Christmas shopping early. Start looking for genuine bargains over the next few weeks and months. If you know some of the toys or other products that you want to buy then start monitoring their prices now and see if they come into a sale during the autumn.
Shopping early does mean that you could miss the number one Christmas toy, but if that's the only toy that you buy in the run up to Christmas, you can save yourself, quite literally, hundreds of pounds.
The New Year sales offer a great opportunity to stock up on birthday presents for the coming year. The only downside is that you need space to store everything until birthdays arrive, but if you have a cupboard out of the way, you can make dramatic savings.
We're only just past the summer solstice, marking the middle of the year, but there's no better time to starting your Christmas shopping than right now! Retailers in the high street and online are suffering poor sales - we don't have money to spend and we're not buying. Shops are currently launching into their summer sales, many starting earlier than usual. Now is the perfect time to bag yourself some bargains rather than waiting for Christmas.
Particularly good value at the moment are children's audio and video offerings. Family DVD's and CD's are cheaper at the moment than they will be at Christmas. Amazon and Play are selling many Disney DVD's for between £5 and £8 at the moment. Come Christmas time, they will probably run the same Buy One Get One that they have for the past couple of years, but suddenly all their titles will be retailing at a much higher price - you'll feel like you're getting a bargain but in truth you'll probably end up paying more than you will for the same titles right now.
Many toy retailers are also offering discounted goods at the moment. Grab yourself some bargains, pick up stocking fillers and stock pile gifts for friends' birthday parties now! Every parent takes advantage of discounted toys to give at parties, shop efficiently and you can save yourself a small fortune!
As Christmas approaches, your mind is probably turning to which gifts to buy the children, and by now you're fully aware that there are some great toys out there, but also some terrible ones too! There's nothing worse than having a toy break before you even reach Boxing Day, or finding that a game that looked like it would be brilliant turns out to be useless and the kids just aren't interested!
Luckily we have help at hand. Over the last few years the Internet has been fundamental in shifting shopping patterns from the high street to the home. Even if you haven't braved that revolution, we have also seen a new and welcome trend in online shopping. Many online stores allow buyers to review products that they buy, and nowadays you can quickly find great gift ideas with positive reviews, products that others have lavished on their children and you can now buy in the reasonably safe knowledge that you're buying a good gift!
Some stores allow buyers to review products in their own site directly, others plug in to independent review sites that specialise in collecting reviews rather than selling, arguably making the reviews more trustworthy. Do retain a healthy scepticism for sites that seem only to have one or two really positive reviews for every product as they could have been left by the manufacturer or seller, make sure that there are a good number of reviews that concur.
Reviews will often cover the quality of items, as well as giving a good indication of how suitable the product is to children of different ages. If you are wondering how good a product is and whether to buy it for your children, seek out reviews online and use the experience of others help make up your own mind! If you are later either pleased or disappointed with your purchase, then take the time to leave your own review in order to help future shoppers.