You don’t need us to tell you that everything is costing a fortune these days and finances are looking generally grim for most of us.
But that feels particularly upsetting with Christmas now on most people’s minds – no one wants to be cutting corners when it comes to spoiling our loved ones and celebrating together.
So we’ve found the solution to all your festive budgeting woes, in the form of a tiny maze of a shop in Manchester city centre.
Sostrene Grene, a Danish retailer based in The Royal Exchange, is an absolute haven for tasteful gifts and trinkets, as well as homewares, craft supplies and those all-unimportant-but-absolutely-magical Christmas decorations.
The brand is often labelled a ‘mini Ikea’, thanks to two things – one that it sells just about everything you can think of for your home, the other that shoppers are taken on a one-way maze through the departments.
It’s a place to buy all the annoying things you can never think where to go for – like napkin rings, nail clippers, kids’ craft kits, and egg cups – which also makes it a great place for gift inspiration.
At this time of year, you enter into a little Scandinavian Christmas wonderland, with a forest of decorative pine trees made from wood, ceramics and even paper, as well as dangling paper snowflakes.
There’s a whole wall of reasonably-priced wrapping paper and gift bags (£1.54 for wrapping paper is a darn sight cheaper than some of the big brands nearby).
Further into Sostrene Grene you’ll find even more Christmas wonder, like an eclectic range of baubles, so you could have a sparkling panda peering through the branches of your pine tree or a glittery croissant dangling amidst your fairy lights.
There’s even a festive section in the craft area, where you can pick up the bits to make your own wreath or build your own Scandinavian nativity scene, down to mini felt deer, tiny post-boxes and even miniature fairy lights.
Elsewhere, craft fans can browse a massive range of yarn and string, canvases and paint brushes, jewellery-making kits and more.
Things that are normally incomprehensibly expensive, like picture frames and mirrors, are far more affordable here than you might expect (around £25 for a huge mirror that looks straight off a Pinterest board).
The same goes for things like candles and decorative jars – there are rows and rows of candlesticks and pillar candles in a rainbow of colours for just 40p each.
You can buy things like a back-scratcher here, or a ceramic loo brush that’s so beautifully made you’d be tempted to display it on a shelf (if that wasn’t gross).
The surprising bargains continue in the kitchen section too, with things like glass and wooden jars in various sizes for around the £4 mark – we can never understand why other shops charge so much for these things.
There are pizza cutters and place settings, colanders and cutting boards, baking trays and beautiful ceramic bowls.
You can even buy retro sweets while you’re queueing up for the tills – we’re talking the sort of hard-boiled fruity sweet that your parents would also chuck at your intermittently to keep you quiet on long car journeys.
Sostrene Grene looks better than ever now that Christmas is nearing, each window transformed into a welcoming scene.
Would the staff judge you for pulling up a chair at the dining table covered in dishes and novelty festive glasses? We might go and find out.
The GIANT £375 chocolate Easter egg that’s ‘too beautiful to eat’
One of the north’s most legendary hospitality businesses has created an Imperial Easter Egg, and the effort that goes into crafting it is wild.
Coming in at 10kg, 22 inches tall, and £375, Bettys enormous chocolate treat shows off a whole lot of artistry.
The iconic tearoom, which has sites across Yorkshire, has shared the behind-the-scenes video to its TikTok page, drumming up almost half a million views.
The mouth-watering video shows first milk chocolate being hand-painted onto a chocolate egg-shaped mould to create the Easter egg’s beautiful textured appearance, The Hoot reports.
Then layer after layer of melted chocolate is poured in from a chocolate tap, before being trimmed and tidied.
Bettys, which has tearooms across Harrogate, York, and Leeds, uses the finest Swiss Grand Cru chocolate for its imperial Easter egg, and every bit that’s trimmed away is melted down to reuse elsewhere.
Then a pastry chef at the tearoom will spend up to an hour PER EGG piping on the ornate decorations, carefully piping on coloured white chocolate stems and ferns.
Then colourful royal icing flowers are placed on its surface, each one again hand-piped by their cake decorators.
The end result is a whopping Spring-time masterpiece covered in shades of green, yellow and purple.
Bettys Imperial Easter Egg weighs in at a massive 10kg and stands at 22 inches tall.
Bettys says: “Celebrating the creativity and craft that makes Bettys unique, our handmade Imperial Easter eggs continue a tradition stretching back more than a century, when our founder Frederick Belmont designed eggs which were ornately embellished with hand-piped icing designs.
“Containing over five kilos of Grand Cru Swiss chocolate made from prized Venezuelan criollo cocoa beans, the Imperial Egg is a true work of art, showcasing the highest skills of our chocolatiers and cake decorators.
“Each Imperial Egg carries an array of delicate, individually crafted spring blooms and foliage including primroses, narcissi and pansies, with hand-piped stems as a final perfect touch.
“Our Imperial Easter Egg is made to order and is only available for collection from one of our Yorkshire shops.”
Shoppers are immediately greeted by a DJ booth, a mirrored ceiling and rack after rack of sportswear.
Brands including Adidas, Nike and Puma are all stocked, as expected, alongside other Frasers Group brands like Jack Wills and USC.
Game has a huge presence up on the top floor, where shoppers can also get their clothing purchases customised.
Click or swipe through the gallery below to see more from Manchester’s new Sports Direct store
There’s kit on sale for every sport from hiking to running to skateboarding to hockey to cycling to fishing to boxing to tennis to rugby to golf to swimming, plus a huge astroturfed area dedicated to football.
In the football zone, you can try on a massive range of football boots while sitting in dugout-inspired seats, with rival mannequins dressed in City and United kits propped up on rotating plinths.
It’s not just about the shopping in here either. Sports Direct has brought a whole load of interactive games and challenges to Manchester.
You can test your golf skills at a Putting Challenge, flex your footwork at a miniature sit-down football pitch, and show off your upper body strength by doing dead hangs from a bar for as long as possible.
The bra studio features a unique multi-brand bra finder tool, which can suggest the right size and shape for your sport, whatever brand you go for.
Sports Direct’s Chief Executive Michael Murray said: “Manchester is a significant location for the group, and we’re excited to be opening our next flagship in the city.”
The huge new Sports Direct store in the Manchester Arndale is open now.