“ Category: Fashion / Clothing „
Presents get harder and harder to buy each year as annoyingly most people don't suffer from short term memory loss and will notice repeat gifts and I'm one of those silly people that always tries to find a suitably fitting and normally humorous gift instead of resorting to generic flowers, chocolates, vouchers or alcohol which does make life ten times harder. That was until I stumbled across the online retailer cafepress.co.uk which is an almost perfect match to all my present buying criteria with the added bonus of not being painfully and extortionately expensive. I'm not sure where the name came from as this site bears little resemblance to coffee or journalism but I'd best describe cafepress.co.uk as a wacky online shop filled with an impressive array of novelty gifts on pretty much any conceivable topic and thus if you're looking for quirky gifts this is a peach of a place to come. If, however, you're looking for the deep and meaningful this probably is the antithesis of where you want to be.
==What's on the menu?==
When you first enter the site you have many ways to begin your search for that ultimate gift. Cafepress have helpfully arranged their catalogue firstly by: Products e.g. t-shirts, clothing, kids & baby, drinkware, home etc.; Interest e.g. best-selling, funny, geek, kids, animals & pets etc.; Gift Ideas e.g. for him, for her, for kids, for pets, for home etc., and Design Your Own which allows you to create photo gifts like t-shirts, bags, mugs or design your own products like t-shirts, mugs, clothes, stickers, key-chains, hats, coasters, iPad cases, magnets and so on and so forth. Alternatively, you can search by department which is divided into Popular Products, T-Shirts & Clothing, Drinkware, Posters, Stickers & Flair, Home Décor, and there is an extra Browse Related section which displays a list of search topics that are relevant to your recent browsing to hopefully assist in your searching needs. Finally you can simply stick in some keywords in a search box narrowed by department if you want and see what pops up which is pretty much the way I do it.
There is also a Sell section which will actually allow you to submit your own designs for products which Cafepress will sell for you and simply give you royalties. Cafepress also offers you your own Shop space whereby you can customise your own website to sell your own products through their infrastructure again earning through the royalties of all sales and finally you can also become an affiliate of Cafepress, gaining royalties for every time your promotion of Cafepress results in a sale.
==Hello? Is it me you're looking for?==
So, unless you have something very specific in mind, a typical vague keyword, departmental or sectional search will probably produce 100s of pages of results where you can view 28, 36, 60 or 96 results to a page ordered by relevance or the newest products. I would have liked the ability to order by price (high to low or low to high) as well, but alas, that is not to be. The results will not be in any particular obvious product or price order and will likely be a mixture of everything available so you will get a lot of t-shirts, stickers, magnets, key-chains, onesies, pyjamas, phone cases and wall art flying your way which could bog you down a bit if you're not really sure what you are looking for, so you will have to be quite precise in your keyword syntax choices to avoid this. Each result has a picture, the name, the price, a minimalistic description and the ability to add straight to your cart. Or you can view further details, which gives a much fuller description of the product and its designer as well as any available customer comments to aid with any purchase decision alongside the ability to customise the product further such as choosing size for clothing and choosing from a range of different styles if available before adding to your cart. From this page you can then also search product by the same designer if they have successfully lured you in with their style.
There are a vast number of "normal" gifts here which are simple products with a nice design - there's not much on here that I would consider tacky - but what I love about the product range is the number of funny gifts available which suits my own sense of humour perfectly and makes my gift buying duties a breeze (if anything I have too much choice). For example, I purchased my nerdy science friend two pillows, one with a periodic table printed on it which said "I use this pillow periodically" and another in the same style that with an argon periodic table element design with the caption "All the best jokes argon" - they were well received despite the groaning. For my dad, I purchased him a clock that said "No drinking until after 5" but with every hour being labelled 5. Boom boom. My sister also loves this site and she has bought a personalised hat, a "My dad's a drummer" bib and a cat t-shirt for her friend's young daughter which all went down a treat, and there have been no complaints over the quality from anyone. You can also search for things like films, tv shows, books, authors, sports teams - you never know what may come up, but almost certainly you'll find something relevant and this place is also an animal lover's heaven. To truly appreciate the breadth of products here you'll just have to browse for yourself!
==It's all got a bit personal==
Customisation is the fun part to this website as they provide you a blank canvas to work on and you can pretty much create whatever you want (assuming it is legal of course). Choosing Photo Gifts you can get blank mugs, pillows, clocks, phone cases, bags, calendars, ornaments, magnets, key-chains, journals, keepsake boxes, water bottles, drinking glasses, photo framed tiles, travel mugs, mouse mats, coasters, notecards, buttons, infant bodysuits and aprons and all you need to do is upload a photo from your computer (which can take a little bit of time to upload whilst the system adds it to the server) and then it magically appears on these blank products. You then have the chance of adding a theme to your photo if you want from Cafepress' library which include floral borders, fun pinwheel, vintage film, favourite polaroid among many more as well as adding in some personalised text all which gets updated in an ever changing onscreen graphic as you make the alterations. Once you are happy, simply add to your cart.
Design Your Own is where things really get crazy. There is a lot more product choice to personalise here with extras including but not limited to jewellery, bath and bed products like shower curtains and pillows & duvets, flip-flops, licence plates, hoodies, teddy bears, hats, CDs and DVDs. To create your designs you simply have to click on your blank product then you are presented with a Microsoft Paint like working area embedded on a graphical representation of your product where you can choose from an array of fonts and colours for text which you can adjust the size and alignment within the working area, you can add in shapes like stars and circles with different border and fill colours which can again have the size, alignment and its position (e.g. set to the background or foreground) adjusted by the icons in the working area as well as being able to add graphics from Cafepress' own library or your own photo or picture collection which can have all the same manipulations. When you are happy, click "I'm finished" and you will see what your design actually looks like on a finished product which you can then edit, send straight to your cart or dispose of to ensure no mortal eyes ever see such a hideous creation.
So with an impressive array of designs on all products and the ability to create your own, I think you will probably find a fun gift for just about anyone on here, as long as they're not one of those people obsessed with jewellery and £10,000 watches. Prices will vary but to give you an idea of the price ranges on this site on average you're looking at t-shirts being no more than £30 and as little as maybe £11.50, hoodies on average between £35-£40, mugs between £9-£14, posters and wall art no more than £20, banners £45, baby clothes also no more than £20 on average, individual stickers and magnets all less than £5, calendars between £8-£19, pillows between £15-£30 and clocks between £14-£32. The most expensive individual items I've come across are rugs, curtains and duvets at £129.50, £54.50 and £150.50 respectively so only you can decide how much you want to spend on such items and if it is good value for money, but personally I can easily buy sufficient presents here to fill up my entire quota for a recipient at what I consider a very reasonable price. Personalisation amazingly doesn't add hardly anything to the price of the product which is an excellent touch.
==Hook me up==
So, once you are ready to make your purchases, the first time you may have to set up an account which simply requires you to fill out your billing address, your shipping address if different, your shipping option - £5 for 4-7 business days and £17.50 for 2-4 business days and your payment method which has to be a credit card or PayPal. You do seem to have to fill out these details again every subsequent time you make a detail, but with an account you can keep track of your orders, set up an address book to save you re-entering those details each time and keep an eye on your gift certificate balance. Another advantage to signing up is Cafepress send via email plenty of discount offers (albeit limited to a fairly strict period) which you can take advantage of if some gift purchasing is in your foreseeable future.
==It's not all a bed of roses==
There is however one slightly major flaw with this company and that is the fact it is an American company. Now everything is all nicely converted to sterling, but some Americanisation does take over, for example if you are searching for football you get very little back since those silly Americans call it soccer, and then anything matching will have soccer branded on it rather than football which makes the gift somewhat invalid. You will probably also notice that only the really popular British TV shows and films make it on the website, whereas there are a lot of American shows available. The final major problem as a result is that now it seems all your goods are shipped from America so not only do you have to pay a lot of money for shipping you also have to wait an age for your goods to arrive.
There is nothing particularly obvious on the website alerting you to this fact, the word "Shipping" is perhaps thrown around haphazardly here and there at best, so it would be very easy to not to be aware of this and then get your goods much later than you were expecting. Their claim of 4-7 or 2-4 business days for your exorbitant shipping fees actually only refers to when they will dispatch your order and does not take into account the American postal service and customs in England which can mean your order takes two weeks to arrive which is a bit for lack of a better word pants. You can track your offer, but it can't really help you if it's just sat in a depot in America waiting for shipping. However, I've found for all my purchases the goods were very securely packaged and there seemed little danger of damage which is a good thing (especially considering the trauma associated with trying to return back to America).
So, for me this is an excellent online retailer with a wonderful array of wacky and quirky novelty gifts (or to buy for yourself!) for adults and kids alike that are easy and cheap to customise and personalise so you can show that you really made an effort to buy a personal gift for someone, but this is middle of the range stuff so is not really the place for really meaningful gifts, perhaps just thoughtful or humorous ones. There is something for everyone - geeks, animal lovers, music lovers, sports enthusiasts, science fans, mathematicians, TV and film buffs, book worms, people in any number of occupations from lawyers to pilots - I'd be amazed if you couldn't find an ideal gift here. The only real drawback is the Americanisation of this site which will result in some of the more British elements of life perhaps not being available plus an increased postage and packaging fee along with a slow delivery time. Apart from this rather big flaw, I would still thoroughly recommend this site - just make sure you get your order in with weeks to spare, as it is not ideal for a last minute panic buy.