Tuesday, 8 December 2009

To Shop or Not to Shop

Here we go, it’s that dreaded time of year where we must brave the brutalities of the cold weather and arm ourselves with shields while we go battle the other shoppers on the High Street looking to snare Xmas presents for their loved ones. For some it is an utter delight while for others it is complete torture. I like most people enjoy shopping a lot, I love browsing in the shops and picking out lush items and taking them home with me. However, I detest Xmas shopping and as a crowd hater I dread purchasing items under duress, so a few years back when I came across The Shopaholic’s Guide to Buying Online I was very excited. The book contained the nuts and bolts on where to buy amazing gifts on the web. So goodbye to bracing the cold and hostile crowds and hello to surfing online while lying on my sofa munching chocolates. Talk about pure bliss! This gem of a book is written by Patricia Davidson who has written four other more titles such as The Shopaholic’s Guide to Buying Gorgeous Gifts, The Shopaholic’s Guide to Buying for Mothers, The Shopaholic’s Guide to Buying Fashion and Beauty Online and The Shopaholic’s Top 1000 Websites. Patricia works as a retail consultant for shop.com and ekomi.co.uk and she launched thesiteguide.com in 2003 which brings together all the best in online shopping. Patricia took time out to answer a few questions about shopping, shopping and shopping.

Describe the concept of your books.
The idea of the books is to provide a light-hearted but informative commentary about all the best websites, particularly for fashion, beauty, lifestyle products and gifts, so that people don’t have to spend time searching.  They are also ‘the books of the site’ at thesiteguide.com.

What is the inspiration behind them?
As an ‘online shopping addict’ I’d collected together all my favourite websites.  Friends and family kept asking me for the list, so I started thesiteguide.com.  I knew practically nothing about online marketing then (2004), so I decided that it would be a good idea to write a book which would bring people to the site.  This was extremely naïve, because it’s much harder to find a publisher (or an agent for that matter) than it is to start a website, however after two years of sending out outlines and manuscripts I found both and since then I’ve been published seven times with the most recent book being The Shopaholic’s Top 1000 Websites.  I’ll never forget my first call from the commissioning editor at John Wiley, when she asked me the question ‘are you still looking for a publisher for your book?’  It was a magic moment. 

Everyone finds Xmas shopping a nightmare and a total chore; please give me three tips on how to get through it.
The big mistake that people make is in thinking that a ‘gift’ is just a ‘gift’, something to buy for someone without giving it very much thought. If people gave more thought to the person they were buying for, they’d find it much easier.  Rather than dashing out to the shops, or sitting down at your pc with a list of people and ‘going for it’, give yourself just a bit more time and write down a few things about each person on the list, such as hobbies, style (eg classic, contemporary, fashion forward) favourite colours, favourite type of fragrance (eg floral, fruity, spicy) and then buying for people and getting it right becomes so much easier.  It also helps, particularly with family, if you listen out for hints on what they’d like but don’t want to buy for themselves. One of my books, The Gift Book has a section at the back specifically for writing down this kind of information plus gift ideas for specific types of people and occasions.

I always find it difficult shopping for my Mum as she has everything. What on earth do you buy someone who has everything?
Go for a favourite, such as a Gift Voucher to her favourite salon, beauty gifts from her favourite brand or a new book by an author you know she loves. Anything really beautiful and high quality, no matter how small, is always appreciated, such as cashmere, high quality leather, a scented candle or a pair of sheepskin lined gloves, making sure that anything you choose is relevant to the style/colour/fragrance/hobbies outline. Never buy the person who (you think) has everything daft gadgets or anything just because you have no idea and want to get them something, and never buy kitchen tools or appliances unless you’re absolutely certain they’ll be welcome!

Name three websites that you use to shop regularly.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m currently working on a book about Glamour online for next year, following the same principle as my other books, but very much fashion and beauty related and including quite a few places that most people will never have heard of. Thesiteguide.com has just re-launched with a new shopping portal, so visitors can just click through to buy, and I’m currently developing that. As well as working as a retail consultant for shop.com and ekomi.co.uk, I expect to be developing my consultancy over the next couple of years, using the experience I’ve gained from reviewing over 2000 online retailers for both thesiteguide.com and my books.

You can read Patricia's blog here
You can follow her on Twitter here

We have five copies of The Shopaholic's Top 1000 Websites and five copies of The Gift Guide to giveaway. All you need to do is drop me an email with 'Patricia Davidson' in the subject line stating which book you would like. The deadline is Monday 14th December. 

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