Thursday 26 November 2009

Virginia Hayward - Christmas Hampers & Gifts

Aaaah Christmas Hampers - I remember those from when I was a kid ! After Mum making weekly payments for months, the big day would arrive a few weeks before Christmas when the delivery man dropped off a huge cardboard box and we'd have great fun emptying it all out and working out how to fit it all in the kitchen cupboards ! There always seemed to be several items that stayed in the back of the cupboard gathering dust for months - chopped ham, tinned pilchards, a can of butter beans ... I don't know what eventually happened to them but we certainly never ate them so I presume they ended up in either the bin or the dog !

Well, the first thing that I noticed when looking at the Virginia Hayward website is that there isn't a dodgy tin in sight ! These are all delicious-looking luxury items - think posh pots of jam, biscuits that look almost home-made and other gorgeous fayre that would look at home in the Harrods food court. Yeah yeah, I hear you say - and how much is that lot going to cost ? Well, surprisingly little actually. You can search by occasion, product, recipient or price, and if you go for the price option, the first category is "up to £24". If you click through, the first product shown is a beautiful gift box containing organic lavender smellies that's just £9.99, so they really have got products for all budgets.

Hang on, organic lavender smellies ? That doesn't sound like a typical Christmas hamper ! Well, there are the traditional selections, such as the Merry Christmas basket containing wine, mince pies, luxury biscuits, fruit cake, fudge and other festive goodies, but there is also a whole lot more. Hampers with champers ? Mais bien sûr ! " Champagne seems to us to be the very merriest of drinks as it sparkles and fizzes in the glass. We can send it on its own, we can send it by the magnum and we have paired it with wonderful truffles. If you want to dispense some effervescent joy to toast the season, then one of these beautiful gifts should be exactly right. " A Hamper for Grampa ? I'm sure he'd love the Highland Fayre hamper with whisky, whisky chasers and even whisky cake that is sure to help provide some festive spirit ! A Hamper to Pamper ? They have a whole range of pamper gifts including some very different and surprising options, like a Pet Photoshoot Experience Day or a Treat Yourself Haircut Experience ! Hampers for Campers ? How about the Chilli Hamper packed full of fiery goodies to keep the cold out ! OK, I think you get the idea (and I've run out of rhymes !) - they have products that would suit everybody, even those that are really awkward to find presents for.

It's not just for Christmas either. There are specific categories for Birthdays, New Baby, Thank You gifts, Wedding Gifts, Self Indulgence... Kids (and big kids ! ) would love the huge boxes full of sweets - I would love to receive the Blast from the Past Hamper full of the retro sweeties that I used to spend my pocket money on years ago !

Looking through the terms and services, I noticed that you can order up to 120 days in advance of delivery. That's brilliant and if you're really organised, actually means you could get all your Christmas shopping done at the end of August before the kids even go back to school ! You can pay by Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Maestro or Visa Debit - I would have liked to have had the option to pay by Paypal, particularly as my French bank card is often refused if I want to send my order home to England (something that you only find out when you've spent ages selecting products and placing your order before reaching the final "confirm your payment' page that comes up with a "Computer says no !" message when it realises you've got a foreign card). But they do deliver worldwide so hopefully they've taken this into consideration. If you're one of those people who always waits until the last minute for Christmas shopping then have a panic attack because you can't find anything left in the shops and it's too late to order online, you'll be pleased to know that orders received between December 2nd and December 18th inclusive will be delivered in time for Christmas. That's really handy if you suddenly realise you've forgotten someone and need a last minute gift (without braving the manic pre-Christmas queues in the shops). You can even buy empty hampers to fill yourself, along with all the packing material needed to get a professional finish, although I have to say that £6.49 for a small pack of shredded paper does seem slightly excessive. But that's just me nitpicking because I've been looking (really hard !) for something to criticise to present a balanced view.

If the word "hamper" reminds you of the Christmas hamper fiasco a couple of years ago when a certain company went bankrupt leaving loads of people high and dry with no money and no Christmas food as planned, you'll also be reassured to see that Virginia Hayward are a long-standing company and are celebrating their 25th anniversary. I wonder if they sent themselves a hamper to celebrate !

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