As December fast approaches, London is bracing itself for an influx of up to 40 million Christmas shoppers, all feverishly spending in anticipation of the big day. With this year’s festive spending expected to eclipse £1 billion, the unofficial starting gun will be sounded on this Friday, November 28 – known as ‘Black Friday’ across the pond – in what is predicted to be the busiest weekend of the entire period. Yikes.
Before you ride into battle and join the festive fray, here are a few tips on how to beat the rush, armed only with your trusty smartphone. Just make sure you’re fully charged…
Apps to stop Christmas cheer turning into festive fear
First things first, we need to impose some deadlines. Christmas Countdown provides you with a day-by-day countdown to the twenty-fifth in whichever format works best for you, from ‘one month 17 mins’ to ‘4,652 heartbeats’. So, come Christmas Eve, you’ll be exactly where you should be: supping mulled wine and munching a mince pie, obvs.
Next up, an old cliché: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Never has this adage been more relevant than in the high intensity game that is Christmas shopping. Christmas Gift List is a useful little app that helps you keep track of gift ideas for your loved ones, letting you store photos and descriptions of potential presents and keep track of budgets. For those iOS users, Gift It is the equivalent app for you.
Transport is an issue in the capital at the best of times, let alone when the Christmas shopping rush reaches full-throttle. Every self-respecting Londoner should have Citymapper on their phones by now: from buses to tubes, Boris bikes to jetpacks, it’s got you covered in terms of journey planning. It also provides all-important information on public transport lines, route maps and timings, while keeping you up to date with delays and closures.
For those intrepid souls taking their cars into town, parking needn’t send stress levels through the roof. Sidestep extortionate fees and avoid circling around car parks like a vulture by using JustPark to book a space in advance. With central London parking available from just £1.60 an hour, drivers can browse, book and pay in just a few taps of their phones. As you glide home in your chariot, spare a thought for the shoppers hauling their heavyweight bounty home on the tube.
Once you’ve reached your shopping destination and entered the retail race, the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. Keep your spirits high with Christmas Radio, bringing you on-demand holiday music from around the world. Warning: while the dulcet tones of Frank and Bing, Wham! and Mariah may bring life-affirming joy to some, for others it may be the final straw. Approach this app with caution.
For those who decide to give the outside world a miss, uShop:UK brings all the major retailers’ catalogues into one tidy app-sized place. Browse and order from stores like ASOS and Amazon at your leisure, while nursing a large glass of red wine. If your budget is as tight as your waistband will inevitably become over the festive period, HotUKDeals.com gives you a heads-up on the latest discounts, voucher codes and freebies.
While you’re at it, why not sort your entire Christmas food shop from the comfort of your living room? Using the app from London-based startup Hubbub you can get all your festive food delivered to your door from your local independents, rather than the supermarket giants. From the best bronze-feathered birds and succulent hams to all the tempting trimmings, Hubbub will leave you and your guests well fed – and your halo firmly in place for bringing business back to the high street.
Finally, take a moment to Elf Yourself. One quick selfie is all it takes to transform your weary face into a troop of happy, bouncing Santa’s little helpers and watch them dance to their hearts’ content. Light entertainment for when you’re taking a breather – before plunging back into the chaos.
Need more help? Take a look at our complete guide to Christmas in London.