Christmas shopping a stressful chore

Last updated 11:15 25/11/2012

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A Canterbury researcher says that even with the option of shopping online, the Christmas retail rush can be difficult and stressful.

University of Canterbury's associate professor Paul Ballantine said gift shopping was viewed by many people as work, rather than a pleasurable experience.

''Christmas gift buying often isn't enjoyable. Gift-giving is a cause of stress for many people. People want to buy a gift that is going to be liked.

''With more and more people off-loading their unwanted Christmas presents through TradeMe or re-gifting them, we are bombarded by evidence that gift-giving isn't always successful. This increases the feeling for some that they will get it wrong.''

He said that online Christmas shopping could relieve some pressure by saving time and money and it often meant there was a larger range of options to choose from, while also not having to worry whether something is in stock or not.

However, while things like toys or books could be purchased easily online without seeing the items personally, some products need to be handled or inspected before they are bought.

''Specialist items like jewellery still largely need to be bought from traditional brick-and-mortar stores," he said.

With gift-giving often being so difficult, many people used avoidance strategies or purchase gifts that could be considered generic, such as a bottle of wine or chocolates, he said. 

In part, this was due to gift-giving being an expectation at this time of year, which created a sense of social obligation, as the giving of gifts was a requirement to participate in some social events. The worst of these was secret Santas, where people often don't know who they're buying for, but they just needed to buy something.

''Money has long been a common gift and vouchers have also become increasingly popular with time. It allows a gift recipient to choose something they actually want, although at the same time money and vouchers are viewed by some as being an easy gift that didn't require a lot of thought on the part of the giver.

''Experiential gifts have also become increasingly popular. So, rather than buying something physical, events such as driving a racing car or hot air balloon rides, can be considered unique experiences that someone wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves.

''Gifts can also send the wrong message and can sometimes be damaging for a relationship. Giving a vacuum cleaner or a new set of saucepans to someone you love at Christmas, for example, often isn't going to be well received. 

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''For those people you are socially close to, gift buying typically carries an expectation that the recipient of the gift will feel as though the giver understands their tastes, wants and preferences.

"We also know that some people are easier to buy gifts for than others.''

- The Press

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