The Grand Central Christmas Shopper Challenge

Read this in: 5 minutes

With the big day just days away and despite each year telling yourself you’ll be more organised the next, you find yourself in the last minute dash for Christmas Shopping yet again.

We at Style Birmingham heard that Grand Central has you covered, so we decided to put them to the test with a Grand Central Shopper Challenge.

We had one hour for lunch and a Christmas Shopping mission to complete.  We needed help so approached two unsuspecting shoppers who accepted the challenge.  23 year old Lizzie from Coventry and 28 year old Oliver from Moseley were given a specific ‘shopping’ list as we wished them good luck and sent them in different directions with the timer ticking.

Challenge 1: Something sweet for your loved one

For the first challenge, Oliver made a confident dash to his girlfriend’s all-time favourite concession, ‘Loved and Found’ inside John Lewis.  Here you will find a unique boutique shopping experience where you can discover something different from those smaller quirkier brands.

Oliver spotted the popular Brandon Stanton’s book, Humans of New York.  A great read, filled with pages of wonderful photography, featuring interviews with thousands of people on the streets of New York City. The perfect gift for his girlfriend.

Humans of New York – Loved and Found, located on the first floor of John Lewis, £13.60
Humans of New York – Loved and Found, located on the first floor of John Lewis, £13.60

Meanwhile, Lizzie went on a search to find her boyfriend’s favourite aftershave from The Perfume Shop.  Lizzie chose Paco Rabanne, a fresh and sensual fragrance which came complete in a gift set including 50ml Eau de Toilette aftershave and shower gel.

Paco Rabanne – 50ml Eau de Toilette Gift Set for him, The Perfume Shop, £39.99
Paco Rabanne – 50ml Eau de Toilette Gift Set for him, The Perfume Shop, £39.99

Challenge 2: Something to keep mum warm this winter

With both Oliver and Lizzie completing the first present challenge in less than 10 minutes, the race was well and truly on. Lizzie now headed straight for John Lewis to find something warm for her mum.

Overwhelmed by the amount of choice, Lizzie stumbled across a selection of patterned scarves opting for a beautiful pink and purple one. Winter scarves make for a great gift keeping you warm, they’re cozy, and of course, all scarves, regardless of style, tie an outfit together unlike any other accessory.

Challenge 3: Something for the ‘show-off’ sibling

For this particular gift, Lizzie wanted to find something extra sparkly, to suit her glitter obsessed sister. She headed straight to Accessorize knowing she would find the perfect gift to make her sister shine bright like a diamond.

The Clarissa Boxy Shoulder Bag is finished in a lace-like texture and topped with sparkly crystals, sequins and pearl beads in a pattern, creating a beautiful, light-reflecting effect.  As an added bonus, the gift was reduced down in the sale from £42.00 to £29.40.

Clarissa Boxy Shoulder Bag, Accessorize, £29.40
Clarissa boxy shoulder bag, Accessorize, £29.40

Next up, Oliver was on the hunt for his older brother and headed over to TM Lewin who are known best for their selection of gentleman’s dress shirts and ties. He was immediately approached by a very helpful sales assistant who offered his expertise and styling tips.

Colour in menswear is quite often restricted to a palette of grey, black, white, brown and navy – but not at TM Lewin. Spoilt for choice, Oliver utilised TM Lewin’s colour guide to discover that red was the perfect colour match for his brother. After just 5 minutes, Oliver was at the till purchasing a red diamond tie, and pocket square to match.   

Red diamond flower power tie, T.M. Lewin, £20 and 4-way Flower power pocket square , T.M. Lewin, £20
Red diamond flower power tie, T.M. Lewin, £20 and
4-way flower power pocket square , T.M. Lewin, £20

Challenge 4: A gift to stimulate the brain

20 minutes into the challenge and Lizzie was ever so slightly leading the way, with just two more gifts to purchase!

When it came to finding a gift to stimulate the brain, a trip to Foyles was the obvious choice for Lizzie, and as she browsed the vast book range, a certain quirky gift caught her attention – Optical Illusion cards. It’s the perfect present for someone who likes to have their mind blown! For just £6 these 50 cards feature mind-bending illusions to surprise your eyes.

Optical Illusions, Foyles, £6
Optical Illusions, Foyles, £6

Although Lizzie was slightly ahead of him, Oliver was determined that he could find the final two gifts and complete the challenge in record time.

Puzzled about what to get his favourite Brainiac, he decided that the much-loved Paperchase was bound to have a solution. Renowned for selling wonderful stationery, Oliver was able to pick up a large notebook and stylish pen.

With the New Year just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about getting organised and a nice new planner or notebook will help you keep right on top of things.

Contrast green large notebook, Paperchase, £15 and Navy aztec pen, Paperchase, £2.50
Contrast green large notebook, Paperchase, £15
and Navy aztec pen, Paperchase, £2.50

Challenge 5: Something for the friend that has everything  

As the challenge came to a close it was neck and neck with both Oliver and Lizzie in a mad dash to find an item for the friend that has everything. Whether it’s a fashion accessory, the latest tech gadget, or some new smellies, people who already have everything don’t leave a lot of choices for us gift givers.

But Oliver had already seen something in passing, which he knew would make for something a little different. Heading to Whittard, he picked up an item from the Christmas gift selection for the ultimate tea lover.

These festive tea blends are the perfect pick-me-up for misty mornings. And for those chilly evenings, nothing beats a steaming mug of Whittard’s Mulled Wine infusion: it’s a merry medley of blackberry leaves, apple and cloves.

The Tea Selection, Whittard, £20
The Tea Selection, Whittard, £20

We all have our favourite mug when it comes to a comforting cuppa, so Lizzie opted for an extremely festive mug from Clinton’s as her final gift choice. Clinton cards have a range of exciting mugs, perfect for tea, coffee or just brightening up your kitchen.

Mug, Clintons, £8
Mug, Clintons, £8

As the hour was up and the challenge came to a close, it was a close result but Lizzie ended up finishing just 2 minutes ahead of Oliver. We spoke with both of them after the challenge to find out how they thought it went.

“I was really impressed with the gift offering in Grand Central. I always knew there were a wide variety of stores here, but I didn’t realise just how much you could get in such a short amount of time. There really is something for everyone.” Oliver, 28, Moseley. 

“I’ll definitely be returning to Grand Central to finish off my Christmas shopping, as I’ve already seen a few more potential gifts. I can get the train to New Street Station and I only need to come up the escalators to Grand Central to find my gifts – I’ll definitely be picking up lunch whilst I’m here too! I love that I can complete my Christmas shopping under one roof.” Lizzie, 23, Coventry.

If you’re panicking about those last minute buys, head to Grand Central for all your gift-spiration under one roof.  And to help you out that little bit more, late night shopping will see stores opening from 9am-10pm all week up until Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is open from, 9:00am – 04:00pm.

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