Indeed, given the recent publicity about unsafe electrical products finding their way into the inventories of Amazon and Ebay, your local high street is looking a more attractive proposition than ever.
This year, alongside the old standbys of Bluetooth speakers and electric toothbrushes, you will find ranges of newly-popular airpods – wireless earphones of the type popularised by Apple.
A pair of Apple originals costs £139 at John Lewis, complete with wireless charging case, and makes an excellent gift for someone with an iPhone. But there are plenty of alternatives also on the shelves.
Perhaps the most attractive of these – if you can still find them – are Lidl’s Silvercrest in-ear headphones, which cost only £25. This is an important consideration given the ease with which they can fall out of your ears and get lost.
You shouldn’t expect the same sound quality from the Lidl product as from one costing more than five times as much, but many users will find them perfectly adequate. They do not, however, actively cancel out unwanted background noise in the same way as the £139 variety. Other models that can be had for around £100 include RHA’s TrueConnects and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, with alternatives by Bose, Sony and others costing a little more.
In an age of selfies, you wouldn’t have thought there would be much of a market left for Polaroid-style cameras, but the latest generation of instant snapshooters has disproved any such notion. Models like the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9, which is £65 at Argos in a choice of colours, work in exactly the same way as Polaroids, delivering a small, paper print into your hand a few seconds after taking it. Kodak have similar models, and replacement film is typically around £15. They’re just a fad, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make someone’s Christmas.
Coffee pod machines might also be a passing phase, like those soda syphons of the 1970s, but they have found a market niche for those who like full roast flavour in less time than it takes to boil a mug of Mellow Bird’s.
Basic machines by Bosch and De’Longhi are as little as £30 on the high street, and include inbuilt barcode readers to programme themselves with the appropriate temperature and brewing time for each drink. Even the discount supermarkets now sell own-brand refill pods, but of course the rival brands are incompatible with each other.
The market for smart assistants – mini speakers which respond to your voice – may have peaked now, but there are still plenty around and prices have fallen for the first time to around £20. A first-generation Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot is a useful present for someone who might want to dip a toe into the water of home automation, while the Amazon Echo Show 5, which has a small screen that lets you record video, can sometimes be had for £50, although the price varies. For a home that already has a smart controller, accessories like lightbulbs and thermostats are also stocking-filler contenders.
Streaming sticks, too, are bound to go down well with anyone whose TV has a spare HDMI socket on the back. The Roku range is the best of the bunch, with even the 4K model now coming in at a little less than £30. With more apps than most smart TV’s this is the ideal way to enjoy a free trial of the BBC and ITV BritBox service over Christmas. If nothing else, it will remind you how good the programmes used to be at this time of year.