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Shoppers peruse Simpson's Queen Street in Toronto on Dec. 16, 1980.

John McNeill/The Globe and Mail

THREE DAYS OUT: Get professional help

The prospect of starting your gift shopping this close to Dec. 24 might put you into panic mode, but taking advantage of a retailer’s holiday resources can help keep things calm.

Before venturing to stores, for example, check out Indigo’s Thoughtfull, a marketplace-style e-commerce platform that has suggestions ranging from tangible items to ideas for workshops and tour packages. Answer a few simple questions such as, “How do you want your gift receiver to feel,” and a curated selection of present ideas – independent of what Indigo carries – will appear. Hudson’s Bay’s online gift guide is divided into the type of giftee (teens, him, her, etc.) and also by item – whether your special someone loves beautiful home scents, good old board games or is in need of a new pajama set. Sephora also offers a detailed online resource that makes searching for makeup, skin-care and hair products less harried.

Your guide to stress-free holidays, whether you’re hosting, socializing or travelling

If you need even more hand-holding, consider working with a store’s personal shopping expert. Saks Fifth Avenue, Aritzia and Anthropologie have locations across Canada that offer in-store shopping services, as does Holt Renfrew.

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“We have people coming in three or four days before – we work right up until Christmas eve,” says Holts personal shopper Marlo Sutton. Sifting through the store’s array of gifts might seem daunting, but Sutton notes that their shopping services are free and that late gifters can take advantage of staff who know their way around Holts’s luxe merchandise better than anyone else. “You can work with someone in a store who knows what’s there; I have clients who send me lists of ideas of what they want with budgets for each person and then I run and do all the work for them.”

Sutton’s idea of an ideal buy in a bind? One of Byredo’s perfume oils, or Gucci Beauty’s sheer tint lipstick. “It’s not a super commitment to a dark or bright lipstick that not everyone is going to wear,” she says.

“When I am in a time crunch, I definitely default to gifting accessories,” style expert and television personality Alexis Honce says. “My go-tos are beautiful scarves and on-trend jewellery. Both are great gifts as they are fun and fashionable pieces that the receiver can easily incorporate into their wardrobes right away.”

TWO DAYS OUT: Embrace the thrill of the last-minute hunt

Whether it’s due to circumstances such as a work or travel schedule, or you find there’s a certain thrill in holding off on splashing out on gifts until the absolute last minute, it’s important to face the road ahead with a hopeful attitude. “Last minute shopping doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get someone a worse gift option,” says Kuo Yin, who lives in Toronto.

Yin’s approach turns the tables on the notion that down-to-the-wire shopping has to be fraught. “It will always surprise you, what you get as gifts, because when you pre-plan something, the options might be dull because you’re [thinking] too much about what to get. Then you’ll miss the fun part, which is shopping.” A focused approach suits her strategy; “Avoid shopping all around,” Yin recommends. “Stop by the [holiday] gift shop section in a department store first – it’s got the best picks from every brand.”

Procrastination doesn’t mean you have to stick to mall retailers and big box stores. Two days before Christmas, there’s still time to give a little love to small businesses.

Gravity Pope, which has locations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, boasts a wealth of finds from home decor items to fashion accessories such as Rosefield’s refined-but-budget-conscious watches. Vancouverites can take advantage of the eclectic array of goods at Secret Location in Gastown, which also posts an online gift guide so you can plan before you shop. With several locations in Quebec, Must Société is great for tracking down an eleventh hour gem for the design lover on your list. And Toronto’s Drake General Store stocks cheery items from Barcelona brand Doiy and wares from Canadian hemp-infused body care line Deew, as well as many seasonally-themed knick knacks. Thanks to DGS’s concession in Hudson’s Bay on Queen Street West, Torontonians can nab indie items during the department store’s extended hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and those across Southern Ontario can take advantage of in-time holiday delivery for online orders placed by Dec. 22 through drakegeneralstore.ca.

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ONE DAY OUT: Time to DIY – and embrace experiences

Cobbling together a present out of things you have around the house can work for foodie family and friends if you get creative and personal. Randa Salloum, founder of Vancouver’s Ciel Creative marketing agency and a sustainability advocate, encourages you to consider an eco-friendly, elevated take on the home-made gift.

“For a person who loves to cook, for example, create a ‘meal in a jar,’” she suggests. “Grab a jar from home that’s large enough for all the dry ingredients they need to create the dish, like lentils, pasta noodles, spices, etc.” She recommends adding a handwritten recipe with the package. Infusing items such as honey with a quirky ingredient such as chilies, flowers or herbs, or creating a batch of homemade salsa, are also fun DIY ways to win your giftee’s heart.

Salloum and Honce also strongly advocate giving moments instead of items, such as signing someone up for an upcoming masterclass event in their city. “For the person that has everything, I usually like to gift experiences,” Honce says. “A facial at a luxury spa is another great idea. This way, you don’t have to stress about what they actually need and surprise them with something they might not have thought of themselves.” An afternoon at Toronto’s new Guerlain spa would be magnifique, and someone who loves the nature-based beauty movement would adore a trip to Montreal’s Etiket, which features Tata Harper treatments such as the Detox Defense Facial.

CRUNCH TIME: Take advantage of extended hours and (dare we suggest?) regifting

Should you still feel the urge to engage in a little shopping-as-sport, Cadillac Fairview malls across the country are easing the task of acquiring last-minute buys by extending hours; its four Quebec locations are open an hour early, at 9 a.m., the week leading up to Christmas. And many locations across the country will be open until 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, with Toronto’s Sherway Gardens going even further by locking up at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24.

If it’s 6:01 and you still haven’t crossed every name off your list, however, the more sustainable approach to consumption that emerged in 2019 might just save you.

Re-gifting has had a bad rap for about as long as gifting has existed, but someone with a green mindset might not mind receiving something preloved if it’s done right. In today’s recommerce economy, you might even appear ahead of the curve for giving someone a beloved item from your own closet (after making sure it’s in good, wearable condition of course). Ditto for favourite books that are just sitting on a shelf.

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As long as anything gifted forward comes with a note about what it means to you and why you’re passing it on (unfortunately, using your procrastination as a motive here might not be the best idea). Highlight why you feel the gift is going to the right home and it shouldn’t seem like an afterthought.

Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the weekly Style newsletter, your guide to fashion, design, entertaining, shopping and living well. And follow us on Instagram @globestyle.

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