The holiday season is certainly a joyous time but it can be stressful when it comes to finding a gift for the special people in your life. Here are some last-minute gift ideas that will hopefully inspire.
Electronics and technology have become the marquee items in the world of consumer goods. As is generally the case with electronics, prices have tumbled rapidly. The 52” high-definition Sony Bravia television that you paid around $2,500 four years ago is selling for a third of that at most these days. The same can be said of laptops and tablets. Lenovo’s ThinkPads, Acer’s Aspire Notebooks and Sony Vaio Ultrabooks run anywhere from $750 to $1,400. A less costly alternative is an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, which is easy to carry and extremely useful if you simply want internet access away from home.
Three-dimensional television appears to be a bust but 3-D printers such as the one developed by Dynamism is attracting attention. Instead of using paper, 3-D printers use plastic and can produce molds of objects. Those who are old enough to remember the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park will probably recall the Sinclair Oil pavilion where you got a mold of the company’s green dinosaur logo. The bad side of these printers is that they can create replicas of very realistic toy guns.
Just as the old computer battle between Microsoft and Apple yielded those famous PC vs. Mac commercials, smartphones are divided between the Android operating system and the iPhone. Apple users prefer the latter while PC users will prefer the former. The Samsung Galaxy SIII has become the most popular Android because of its slightly larger size, which makes it easier to text and yet is still small enough to be easily carried in your pocket. Keeping portable devices well-charged is obviously important and iHome makes a variety of docking stations for cellular phones and tablets.
One of the time-honored traditions of the holiday season is mailing out greeting cards to friends and family. If you don’t have the time to buy cards, write messages in them, put on return address and stamps, and finally mail them out, an e-commerce company, www.postables.com, will handle those chores for you.
Sports fans are a fairly easy group to please. Starter, New Era, Nike and Reebok make plenty of apparel for fans of pro and college teams. Sports Illustrated has a pair of books that make for delightful presents, the “Sports Illustrated 2014 Almanac,” which can quickly settle almost any bar bet, and the coffee table-sized “Baseball’s Greatest,” which looks at the sport’s most memorable games and players. David’s Bridal has strayed quite a bit from its wedding gown beginnings and is now offering NFL beer mugs and shot glasses. When it comes to autographed athletics memorabilia no one has more merchandise than Steiner Sports.
Getting in better shape has long been the most popular New Year’s resolution. Radio Shack’s Fitbit line of products tracks activity and calorie-burning wirelessly. Gyms such as the New York Sports Club, Equinox, Crunch, and New York Health & Racquet generally have good membership deals this time of year, particularly since the economy still isn’t what it should be. There is no shortage of quality running shoes to use on the treadmill as Altra, Brooks, Reebok, New Balance, and Ryka (women only) all have comfortable footwear at a variety of price levels. A new company from Switzerland, simply named On, is attracting attention with its Cloudsurfer shoe. Everlast made a name for itself in the world of boxing equipment but it has expanded into the non-fisticuffs world as it manufactures reasonably priced warmup jackets, thermal T-shirts, and yoga pants, which are sold exclusively at Sears.
If you know both the sizes and tastes of the people for whom you are shopping, clothing is an excellent gift option. Lands End has a wide array of winter outerwear ranging from heavy coats to socks and underwear. Gap’s Twill plaid shirts and Buffalo plaid shirts are worn by men of all ages. Other retailers who have both a strong presence on the web and in traditional brick and mortar retailers and offer clothing and merchandise in almost every conceivable category are Desigual, Aeropostale, Fossil, and Paul Frank.
While it is certainly more comforting for a lot of us to buy higher-priced clothing in a familiar retail store, there are bargains to be had on the internet for savvy consumers. Beckett Simonon (www.beckettsimonon.com) makes the kind of high end men’s dress shoes that you would find at an Allen Edmonds or Johnston & Murphy store but at a third of the price. Guys and gals looking for a more casual shoe should log onto www.oceanminded.com. If you are looking for oddball clothing stocking stuffers for a guy, Dalys 1895 (www.dalys1895.com) sells pocket squares and bow ties while you can purchase small metallic rods that you can place in shirt collars to keep from wrinkling and curling up at www.swissstays.com .
Women seeking fashionable coats should check out the inventory of designer Leslie Tessler (www.leslietessler.com). Just as Harry & David has a “fruit of the month” club, a website, www.mjprojectidy.com sends a different clothing accessory every month if they subscribe to the service.
It’s hard to watch television without seeing commercials for Zales, Kay, and Jared so you know that the holiday season is crucial in the jewelry business. There is no shortage of websites that sell intriguing and inexpensive jewelry. Long Island designer Nancy Rosen has created numerous necklaces, earrings and other costume baubles that have been used by cast members of the Bravo Network’s various “Real Housewives” series. In fact her company is called Housewives Jewelry (www.housewivesjewelry.com). This year she has created a bracelet called the Vanderpump cuff in honor of Bravo’s new reality series about attractive and vapid Southern Californians. Other jewelry websites worth checking out are www.liasophia.com, www.wrenglory.com, www.charmedcircle.com, www.clarisonic.com and www.montier.com.
If you are serious about jewelry pieces that start in the four-figure range, Charles & Colvard’s Forever Brilliant line (www.foreverbrilliant.com) should capture your attention.
Watches are the most popular and functional forms of jewelry and they come in all price points. Long Island City-based Armitron, Dakota Watches, Bertucci Watches, and the granddaddy of them all, Timex, all make timepieces that look a lot more expensive than their sales price. Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman created a company, House of Horology (www.hohwatches.com), that sells watches that have the craftsmanship of expensive brands as Tag Heuer and Movado but at half of the price. HOH has a store in SoHo.
Metallic jewelry runs the risk of tarnishing over time. Colle is a mousse that keeps your valuables looking as if you just bought them. Log onto www.colleproducts.com
Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses are just as necessary in the winter as in the summer, if not more so, because the sun’s rays are at a lower angle, which makes driving particularly difficult in the late afternoon. Safilo’s Carrera division is renowned for their classic aviator styles that make anyone look cool by wearing them. For those on a tighter budget, Polaroid, which is also now owned by Safilo, makes sunglasses with a huge choice of fashionable frames. The 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination has caused a renewed interest in all things relating to President John F. Kennedy including his Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses that he was fond of wearing. If you want to look like an athlete who just signed a multi-million dollar contract, pick up a pair of Oakley wraparounds. Zeal Optics, ICU Eyewear, Flutter, and See Saw Seen Eyewear also make affordable and stylish shades with prescription and nonprescription lenses. Shauns California makes sunglasses that resemble the kind worn by a young Robert Redford and the late Audrey Hepburn.
Cosmetics are popular gift ideas for women looking for items for other women.
Sephora has surprisingly only been manufacturing bronzes, eye shadow, brushes and lipsticks in the United States since 1998 (the company started in France in 1970), but it has quickly become known for its high quality. Well aware of consumer demand for the holiday season, Sephora is selling gift sets of its products through a line called the Sephora Collection.
May Kay Cosmetics is an iconic name in the beauty supplements business and it has just celebrated its golden anniversary.
An Australian company, NVEY has a line of organic makeup. One of its biggest fans is Aussie actress Naomi Watts. Two more moderate-priced companies, Wet N Wild and Essence, offer nail polishes and lipsticks in splashy colors aimed towards a younger consumer. For those who like the best in shampoos, try a gift set from Philip B. Botanicals or Black 15 in 1’s travel set.
Women outnumber men when it comes to purchases of skin care products but the difference in market share between the sexes is getting smaller every year. Juice Beauty’s Ageless Radiance and Obagi’s Luxe Hydrate, and Wilma Schumann European Skin Care are popular age-fighting moisturizers/skin creams/serums. Clarins and Burt’s Bees were pioneers in creating skin products aimed at the burgeoning male market while Jack Black was one of the first companies to make moisturizers and scrubs just for guys. There are a pair of new competitors in the men’s grooming market; Menaji (www.menaji.com) sells tubes of masque and face &body scrub for men while Columbia Skin Cares makes healing cream to smooth out various dermal wrinkles and cuts.
There are countless items that fall under the beauty/personal care umbrella. A social media website, www.pampadour.com, gives public critique to a lot of them. It’s as close to Consumer Reports for beauty industry as you can find.
Luggage, whether it be for a business trip, a long vacation, or a long weekend is very useful. Briggs & Riley’s Torq line is perfect for those big trips while Beckett Simonon’s Potenza is just right for the quick getaways. LXR & Company (www.lxrco.com) must have a relationship with Louis Vuitton because they sell the products of the famous French luggage and handbag company at discounted prices. Indiana’s Vera Bradley is known for its decorative and spacious light totes that can hold a lot of material.
Target’s Threshold line of home goods includes useful items as small jewelry boxes, towels, dinnerware and wine stoppers.
Wines and spirits are always popular gifts any time of the year. New Zealand has become a major exporter of pinot noir and its Nobilo Icon Pinot has a mild, easy-to-finish taste as does Oregon’s Benton-Lane. If you like a sparkling red wine from Italy, try a bottle of Ruffino Prosecco. If you are fan of Calfornia cabernet sauvignon you can’t go wrong with Woodbridge from Robert Mondavi or Sterling Vineyards cabernet sauvignon. Red wine has more cardiac benefits than white but if you like chardonnay and other whites, the Rueda region of Spain is your nirvana (www.winesofrueda.com).
For those who enjoy harder spirits, Johnnie Walker Black Label and its more expensive sibling, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, along with Macallan, Glenfiddich, Grant’s Blended, and the Balvenie, are the top names in whisky and scotch. For those who like the clear harder stuff, Bombay Sapphire East gin, Smirnoff vodka, Stolichnaya vodka, Tequila Don Julio 70, Milagro tequila, Ty Ku sake, Old Smoky Moonshine and Martini Gran Lusso vermouth should get the job done. Aficionados of liqueurs and aperitifs will enjoy Baileys Old Irish Creme (which now comes in a variety of flavors), Tequila Don Julio Reposado, Godiva liqueur, Unicum liqueur, and Cointreau.
Reference books were always my favorite holiday presents when I was growing up. I eagerly awaited the new World Almanac. Even in this internet world there is something enjoyable about turning the pages to find facts quickly. Unlike most encyclopedia companies, the World Almanac continues to thrive and the 2014 edition has just hit bookstores. Other fun reference books are “Leonard Maltin’s 2014 Movie Guide” (Plume Books) and “The 2014 Guinness Book of World Records.”
There are a trio of books that should please music fans.
Lisa Johnson’s “108 Rock Star Guitars” is a coffee table book of the “axes” used by Sting, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Eddie Van Halen and many others.
The 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in the United States for the first time is two months away so it is not surprising that a pair of books on how they changed the world have hit the shelves and you can be sure that more are coming. “All The Songs” (Black Dog & Leventhal) by Philippe Margotin is a scholarly tome that examines the stories behind every Beatles song that was ever released in the United States. Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” (Sterling Publishing) gives all the details of who played which instruments on their recordings.
Fans of pop culture will enjoy Deborah Norville’s “The Way We Are” (CBS). The current “Inside Edition” host takes a look back at the 25-year history of what many believe to be the first national TV tabloid news show.
If you know someone who does not subscribe to HBO but has heard about their terrific original shows, you can purchase DVDs of such fare as “Eastbound and Down,” “Game of Thrones,” “Girls” and “Boardwalk Empire” for them.
Discovering or rediscovering New York City can be a gift in its own right. CityPASS and New York Pass are competing companies that make booklets and cards that allow you to see a virtually limitless number of museums and other attractions for one low fixed price. The catch is that you have to do it in a number of consecutive days so you may want to use these passes when the weather warms up.
A great way to discover New York’s spectacular waterways is to take a dinner cruise on either World Yacht or Spirit Cruises. Both have their berths on the Hudson River. World Yacht is located near the end of 42nd Street while Spirit is a mile south at Chelsea Piers.
Happy holidays to all!