Manchester Selfridges launch virtual gift buying service – so what’s it like?

Struggling for Christmas present inspiration and don't feel like braving the crowds? Manchester's Selfridges stores are offering online personal shopping sessions - we test it out
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The shops may now be open for all that last minute Christmas shopping – but what if you don’t feel like braving the crowds and need more inspiration than simply scrolling online for hours on end?

Manchester department store Selfridges has come up with one solution in these extraordinary times – offering an online festive present buying concierge service called Elfridges.

You tell the store’s “elves” – expert shoppers – who you’re shopping for, your budget, the sort of things your friends and family might like and then they get to work scouring the Manchester stores (chose from Exchange Square or Trafford Centre) for a raft of options.

Credit: Lucy Smith

Then, over a 30 minute or one hour online video appointment (your choice of Zoom, FaceTime or Skype) you get to see and chat through all the things that they suggest.

Sounds good – especially if, like me, your online shopping trawl currently ends up with about 100 tabs open on your browser and hours of scrolling to STILL not find what you’re looking for.

Perhaps another pair of (expert) shopping eyes will be able to come up with some better options, so I book in to give it a try.  Here’s how it went…

The briefing

After booking in for a virtual session, I get a text message from Georgia, who will be my personal shopper, asking what sort of things I’m looking for.  I give her a brief that I’m after presents for mum, husband, best friend and child – and give a budget of around £50 for each.  I give a few ideas of the things they like.  Although I tell her good luck with finding something for my husband – he’s literally impossible to buy for.  We set a time the next day for our virtual personal shopping session, where Georgia will take me through the gifts she’s found from the Exchange Square store.

The virtual shopping session

Ah the joys of technology.  I’m able to beam into a glittering personal shopping suite at Manchester’s Exchange Square store where I virtually meet Georgia and she presents to me her shopping haul on podiums – it’s bit like a being on a high end TV game show.

We go through each person I’m buying for, and Georgia shows me her suggestions.  For my beauty product-loving mum, she suggests a couple of pretty beauty sets that give you value for money with a number of products – I particularly like an Estee Lauder set (£32) with face creams that I know my mum would love.

It’s then on to my designer-label-loving friend who likes the finer things in life.  Georgia suggests a personalised tin of Moet champagne (£49.99) which I do love, but I’ve gifted something similar before.  There’s also the suggestion of some quite unusual Cryo rubber face masks (£18) that promise to give you silky soft skin that at first I find hilarious, but the more I think about it the more I think would make a quirky gift.

Alas, Georgia is struggling just as much as I do to find something for my husband, given my briefing text said: “he hates everything in shops”. Undeterred, she has selected a posh aftershave from Aqua di Parma (£80) or a male grooming set from Kiehls (£37).  I think we both know these are not going to happen.

Similarly, I think it was probably too tricky a brief for a present for one of my children (baby 11 months or 5-year-old boy) as the Exchange Square store doesn’t do toys but does have a selection of clothing options.   I’m not keen on the child Kenzo t-shirts (£49) she suggests, although I do rather like a furry hat and mittens set (£20) that would look lovely on baby.

Georgia does suggest that I could book in with the Trafford Centre Selfridges where they do have a huge range of toys and clothes for kids.

The Results

It was great to have someone else coming up with some present ideas, although buying for someone tricky is always going to be a tough task even with the help of a shopping guru.

However it gave me some good inspiration for gifts.  At the end of the consultation Georgia said I could let her know which items I would be interested to buy and then she would email me a link to buy the products.  It’s then up to you if you want to click and collect the items from the Manchester store which is free – and there’s also free 30 minute parking at Exchange Square for click and collect customers.  Or you can pay £5 shipping for them to be sent to you at home.

How to book

Selfridges exchange square

Elfridges appointments – for gifting, beauty concierge and fashion styling – are still available at Manchester’s Exchange Square and Trafford Centre stores.  You can choose if you’d like a virtual appointment or in-store following Covid-safe guidelines.

To book, click here

 

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