On Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year, we look at the best sites for getting holiday gifts to the UAE and abroad.
All in the delivery
The online frenzy known as Cyber Monday - the first Monday after US Thanksgiving and the unofficial beginning of the internet Christmas shopping season - usually falls in December. This year, it's in November - but never mind that. Tomorrow is December so hurry up and crack out those credit cards. Today, thousands of websites are expecting shoppers. On Cyber Monday last year, Amazon's UK site clocked up more than 16 orders per second and Google's most searched gift item was the Nintendo Wii. In America, $846 million (Dh3.1 billion) was spent online, up 15 per cent from the year before.
In general, this festive season looks to be a bumper one for the internet. According to a YouGov poll, 86 per cent of people in the UK are expected to pick up something from their shopping list online, with much of the rest of Europe following suit (according to the same poll, 30 cents of every euro spent in France will be spent online). And some economists in America forecast a 3 to 5 per cent rise in online sales over last year. Internet shopping may be strangely impervious to the recession.
Of course, it makes sense to shop online. There is no queuing, lugging around lumpy shopping bags or having your eardrums assaulted by Slade. But for expatriates in the UAE, it is an even more invaluable tool, allowing orders from home countries to be delivered to friends and family, or to get presents here. The following is a list of websites that should have something for everyone: wives, husbands, children, grandparents, long-lost cousins, the office Secret Santa and even pets. Some sites are obvious ones to trawl, others less so. They're based in various countries, but they all deliver to the UAE and much of the rest of the world. Delivery timings and costs vary, but all of the sites are taking orders this week for delivery before the big day itself.
On your marks, get set, go. The site: Amazon.com What it sells: What doesn't it? The fail-safe Christmas shopping site offers a mammoth online grotto of music, books, DVDs, home wares, clothes, toys, electronics and more. Who it's for: Anyone - young or old, male or female. There's even a special section for pet gifts. Best present: The Kindle, No 1 on many wish lists this year ($259 [Dh950]). Gift wrapping option: Yes.
Delivery dates and shipping costs: Costs vary but the priority delivery service is unrivalled. For international deliveries, you can order until December 16. For UK and US deliveries, you can shop up until 8.30am on Christmas Eve. The site: Mankind.com What it sells: Everything grooming-related for the man in your life, along with small leather goods and cufflinks. Who it's for: Dads, uncles and grandfathers who are tricky to shop for.
Best present: The Acqua Di Parma Christmas gift box, with a full-sized cologne, small shower gel and aftershave balm, all packaged in a yellow box (£65.55). Gift wrapping option: Yes. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Guaranteed next-day delivery for the UK is available for £5.95. Delivery to the rest of the world within 10 days can cost up to £27.50. The site: Needapresent.com What it sells: Wacky gadgets galore, divided neatly into sections.
Who it's for: The person who has everything. Microwaveable slippers? Rubik's Cube salt and pepper shakers? Swiss cheese doorstopper? They're all there. Best present: A giant, retro sweetie jar, full of flying saucers, cola bottles, marshmallows, fried eggs and assorted other favourites, that comes with the recipient's name on. Perfect for children. Gift wrapping option: No. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Order until December 23 for UK delivery, December 12 for delivery to Europe, December 10 to the US and Canada, and December 5 to the rest of the world. UK shipping costs £5.99. International deliveries cost up to £15.99.
The site: Bustedtees.com What it sells: T-shirts with clever, droll slogans on them. Who it's for: Teenage boys. Best present: Numerous. The slogans "South Korea's Got Seoul", "Kiss Me (I'm desperate)" and "I wish Googling myself yielded better results" are all winners, though. Gift wrapping option: No. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Priority shipping to all countries outside the US starts at $24.99 and takes three to four days. Standard US delivery costs $5.99 and takes five to seven days.
The site: Conranshop.co.uk What it sells: Upmarket, well-designed home wares, coffee table books, board games and technology gadgets. Who it's for: The style conscious. Best present: A bright green roller-skate doorstopper or bookend, created by the New York interior designer Harry Allen (£75). Frivolous but fun. We like the old-fashioned gingerbread man cookie cutters, too (£8.50). Gift wrapping option: Yes.
Delivery dates and shipping costs: Standard UK delivery costs £4.95 for small orders and £14.95 for larger orders. International delivery rates and timings vary and orders have to be taken over the phone. The site: Spoonsisters.com What it sells: Practically everything in every price range. It's particularly good for small items such as refrigerator magnets, kitsch key rings and jokey bathroom books.
Who it's for: Anyone who needs to buy a Secret Santa present or stocking filler. Best present: An easy-assemble dining table ping pong set ($27.95). Gift wrapping option: Yes. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Orders will be delivered to US addresses within five to seven business days. Prices depend on the cost of the order. Delivery timings and costs to other countries, including the UAE, vary, so get Christmas orders in now.
The site: Smythson.com What it sells: Luxurious leather notebooks, diaries, bags, wallets and purses along with photo frames and personalised stationery. Who it's for: Those who care about appearances. Nothing says office chic like a Smythson diary engraved with your initials. Best present: The Erico hobo bag in denim blue. The latest in Smythson's It-bag collection is a slouchy number that comes in sheepskin leather with a bright malachite, satin lining. A snip at £795.
Gift wrapping option: Yes. All orders are automatically wrapped. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Allow five working days for UK delivery, and up to 12 working days for the rest of the world. Delivery costs depend on the amount of the order. The site: Lizearle.co.uk What it sells: The most delicious-smelling, botanic range of beauty products, which have notched up multiple beauty awards since the line's first London shop opened in 2006.
Who it's for: Beauty junkies and teenage girls. Best present: The Ultimate Christmas Hamper, which comes with almost all the product range in a giant box wrapped with a ribbon (£162.25). Gift wrapping option: Yes. All Christmas gifts come wrapped. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Standard delivery in the UK costs £3 and takes up to seven working days. Allow up to 14 working days and costs up to £15 for the rest of the world.
The site: Hammacher.com What it sells: Traditional knick-knacks. The site was spawned from Hammacher Schlemmer, America's longest-running catalogue, which dates back to 1848. Who it's for: Grandparents. Best present: Washable cashmere lounge pants ($249.95). Gift wrapping option: Yes, in a green box with gold bow. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Express delivery is the fastest option for American orders and takes one to two days, but it costs upwards of $30. International shipping is expensive, but delivery to most of Europe, the Middle East and Australia is available.
The site: Uggaustralia.com What it sells: Anything Ugg related and fluffy - boots, slippers, clogs, clothing, rugs and throws. Who it's for: Relatives or friends in cooler climes. Best present: The classic - a pair of tall boots in chestnut, lined with cosy sheepskin ($180). Gift wrapping option: Yes. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Orders over $140 are delivered free in the US. Delivery can take up to 10 business days. Orders to the rest of the world can take up to 17 business days and cost up to $90. Despite the name, Uggaustralia.com is the official US site. There is a British site for European orders.
The site: Presentaid.org What it sells: Charitable gifts for disadvantaged communities across the world. Who it's for: Those of an ethical disposition. Best present: The animal-related ones - 16 ducks for a Bangladeshi community (£25), a brood of chickens for an Angolan family (£21) or a goat for a farmer in Burundi (£15). Gift wrapping option: Can one gift wrap a goat? Delivery dates and shipping costs: It's all dealt with. The person you have bought on behalf of will receive a card with all relevant details. Allow up to 10 working days for the card delivery.
The site: Harrods.com What it sells: Anything in the world, really, but at Christmas time it's renowned for its hampers. It earns a place here because it will deliver some of them abroad. Who it's for: Foodies or those abroad who long for comforts such as Christmas cake, stollen, chutney, shortbread and candied orange peel. Best present: The St James (£350) comes with all the above and plenty more.
Gift wrapping option: The goods are already well packed in the hampers, but you can add a special greeting or message at the checkout. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Order by December 15 for UK deliveries, December 7 for delivery to the rest of Europe and by Thursday for delivery to the rest of the world. Delivery costs up to an eye-watering £150 for the St James, but cheaper hampers are available from £19.50.
The site: Thinkgeek.com What it sells: Geeky gadgets of all kinds and costs. Bacteria growth science kit anyone? Who it's for: Nerds of all ages. Best present: The KGB disappearing ink pen ($14.99) is the perfect stocking filler for small boys. A business card carrier that looks like a circuit board will appeal to grown-up ones. ($19.00). Gift wrapping option: No. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Costs vary. Order by December 14 for international orders, December 17 for Canadian deliveries and December 23 for American deliveries.
The site: Net-a-porter.com What it sells: High fashion clothing, shoes and accessories. Who it's for: Fashionistas desperately waiting to get their hands on the latest collections. Best present: Glittering Marni jewellery starts at £150, and YSL Tribute sandals start at £607. Gift wrapping option: Yes. Delivery dates and shipping costs: Delivery to the UK within one to two working days for £10, to Europe in one to two working days for £20, to America in two to three working days for £30 and to the rest of the world in two to three working days for £20.