It's your pal's birthday and you're stumped. Getting them clothes becomes a direct reflection of how big or little you perceive them to be - dodgy. Making some kind of personalised photo album always turns out much more naff than you envisaged. And you got them a bottle of wine for the past four years running (doesn't matter if it was fizzy) due to these exact same gifting politics being rife.
What, then? Don't sweat it, just head to Manchester’s quirkiest, quaintest neighbourhood for some unique gift ideas.
Manchester’s best spot for fans of the weird, the wonderful, the kitsch and the kooky, Oklahoma Cafe is a treasure trove of gift-worthy trinkets. With retro lunch boxes, old school kids’ toys and books, statement cushions, unusual crockery and playful pocket money tat, it’s got every base covered when it comes to beautiful detritus for the home. The café’s not bad either, with laid back Scandi-style furniture for you to park yourself at for teas, coffees, shakes, cakes, toasted sandwiches and soup.
This small chain started life as a single bookshop on London’s Earlham Street, before it was rolled out to Clerkenwell and eventually conquered the North with a store in Manchester. The shop on Oldham Street makes for blissful browsing, with the shelves stacked with books and magazines in anything from fashion, architecture and photography to more specialist areas like typography, web design, illustration and graffiti. There’s also posters, stationery, t-shirts, tote bags and gifts, making it a one-stop shop for trendy paraphernalia and by far one of the best bets for when you need to find a present for those creative, intelligent designer types.
The folk at Beermoth are the best beer vendors in town, and are always on the ball when you might not be sure what you’re after. Rather than stocking bottles from every corner of the globe, their selection focuses on regional produce paired with beers from select countries such as Belgium and the USA, which leads to a perfectly curated range in which every product has earned its place. Gift beer fans with a tipple from Italy’s Toccalmatto or Copenhagon’s Mikkeller, or try something closer to home from Buxton or Thornbridge - or simply wander in and ask what's good.
Primarily a craft and stationery centre, Fred Aldous is also home to some really cracking gifts. Its layout resembles the deceptive buildup of an iceberg, with the impressive ground floor merely a fraction of what lies in its lower levels, and accordingly it has become a cavern of Leuchtturm notebooks, photography field guides, Kikkerland pens, lino printing materials and Moleskine diaries. Their huge range of haberdashery and craft supplies allows for nimble fingers to get creative with their gift ideas, and to complete the present you'll also find some great cards - which may not come cheap, but there's plenty of pretty and witty choices to pick from.
As the UK’s only partner store for photography brand and ‘the future of analog photography’, Impossible Project, Stevenson Square’s Incognito is a mecca for keen photographers and creatives. Aside from its specialism in Polaroid and camera supplies, elsewhere the shop is packed with interesting designer brands and novelty gifts. You’ll also often see a few card stands placed outside the storefront, offering a selection of discounted cards for just £1. Keep an eye out for their regular events and workshops in the basement, for these can make great presents as well.
And if all else fails, you can say it with flowers. Nestled over on Tib Street, Northern Flower is a boutique neighbourhood florist that has been serving the area with serious flower power for the last decade. The small, intimate space resembles the atmosphere of a cutesy potting shed, packed full with colourful flowers and plants. Aside from their spectacular bouquets, they also have the perfect gift potential with smaller pieces like potted lavender, chilli plants and cacti.
Want to know more about the Northern Quarter? Here's our handy guide.