Can't face the high street? Some great gifts are available by mail, says Aoife O'Riordain
Braving the shops for ourselves is bad enough, but in the run up to Christmas only the masochistic venture forth in the fight for a piece of pavement. Whether you're overworked, hate shopping or just plain lazy, mail order can be a life (and sanity) saver. A few years ago, about the only thing you could order through the post was thermal underwear - now you could do all your shopping without having to leave the house. One thing mail order does require, however, is a certain amount of planning - most companies specify around 17 December as the last date for ordering to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.

Boden (0181-453 1535). Probably best known for its clothing, the Boden Christmas catalogue offers inspired present ideas, such as richly coloured velvet cushions (pounds 60), a velvet-covered photo album (pounds 45) and fabric-covered notebooks (pounds 18).

Cambridge Cheese Company (01223 565 577). Perfect for foodies - all sorts of specialist cheeses from Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe. You could send someone a densely textured Monte Enebro from Avila in south-west Spain (pounds 10.29 per lb), or Oisin organic goat's cheese from County Clare in Ireland (pounds 7.95 per lb).

Carluccio's (0171-240 5710). Carluccio's Christmas Feast includes a selection of foodie treats, aromatic oil gift boxes (from pounds 24), and Antonio Carluccio's cookery books (from pounds 12.99), including Complete Italian Cookery, Passion for Pasta and A Passion for Mushrooms. And if you still can't decide, there are gift vouchers too.

Charbonnel & Walker (0171-491 0939). The violet creams are reportedly one of the Queen Mother's favourite confections, but the rest of the range is equally delicious and can all be presented in one of Charbonnel & Walker's silk-covered boxes (from pounds 9). Or order its divine chocolate drink (pounds 8.50) - some people have even been known to eat it without adding the boiling water.

Crabtree & Evelyn (01235 822 518). There have been new additions to the Crabtree & Evelyn range of bath, body products and comestibles, including one called Aromathology, an extensive range of aromatherapy-based products. Some of its Christmas list ideas are the Office Survival Kit (pounds 20), and the Relaxation Kit (pounds 29).

The Cross (0171-221 8616). A Mecca for stylish west Londoners and celebrity shoppers in search of the perfect present (which usually ends up being kept by the purchaser because they're so covetable). Now The Cross has introduced a mail-order catalogue, which includes clothes by Dosa, Little Badger for children (see separate entry), accessories by The Jacksons, jewel-coloured Cambodian silk handbags (pounds 45) and a range of bath products called Fruits and Flowers (from pounds 12.95).

David Mellor (0171-730 4259). Stocks every conceivable kitchen utensil (from pounds 1.60) as well as handmade stoneware from Normandy (from pounds 6.95), and pottery. Entire sets of saucepans can be delivered provided they are ordered before 10 December.

The Gluttonous Gardener (0171-627 0800). A novel concept for the mildly green-fingered who enjoy stints with their feet up as much as a good weeding session. There is a range of kits, including the pesto lover's kit (pounds 27), a gin drinker companion (pounds 45), complete with juniper tree and a box of roses (pounds 27), whose pleasures you reap six months later when they are in full bloom in the garden.

Grand Illusions Maison (0181-892 2151). An extensive array of present possibilities with, generally, a rustic French slant. For the house-proud, there are Spanish ceramics, portable chrome barbecues (pounds 68.50) and storm lamps (pounds 22).

Jo Malone (0171-720 0202). Favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow and numerous Hollywood divas, Malone's range of bath and body care products, candles and fragrances are such a hit that anyone who has left it until the last minute usually find themselves queuing for hours outside her tiny Chelsea shop. Favourites include the three-box combinations of fragrances (pounds 45). The Sent-A-Scent service allows you to have a gift box of personally selected products delivered complete with message.

Johnny Loves Rosie (0171-247 1496). Perfect stocking fillers. Every conceivable accessory from velvet roses (pounds 16.95) to soda-cap cuff-links (pounds 14.95) plus button covers (pounds 16.95 per set) and key rings (from pounds 4.95).

Lakeland (015394 88100). There are three Lakeland catalogues - one dedicated to cooking, that has everything the aspiring Delia could wish for in the way of utensils. There is also a storage catalogue, which might be the perfect antidote for your disorganised best friend. And the Christmas catalogue even has a handmade rosebud topiary (pounds 12.95).

Little Badger (0171-498 4707). For trendy parents who have exhausted Baby Gap, this is the last word in clothes for baby and children up to eight years old. Hand-knitted jumpers, hats, personalised hand-knitted cot blankets (pounds 79) and even cashmere baby booties (pounds 17) - lamentably only for those who haven't yet got to grips with walking.

L'Occitane (0171-290 1421). Specialist in bath and body products made from high-quality Provencal flowers and herbs. Particularly luxurious is its range of shea butter products (from 90p), which includes soaps, bath pearls, shampoos, conditioners and a nifty travel kit. L'Occitane even produces vacuum-cleaner fragrance powder in Madagascan vanilla (pounds 8.95).

Next Christmas Catalogue (0345 100 500). Good old Next has everything for the fashion-conscious family, including children's clothing and home furnishings. Even better, goods ordered before 5pm on 21 December can be guaranteed for delivery by courier before Christmas Day.

Persian Rose (01785 840217). This tiny new company stocks a very small specialised range of skin-care products made from organically grown Persian roses. Rose body lotion (pounds 35) comes in a beautifully packaged amethyst glass flagon. The Damask rosewater is distilled using mountain stream water. Anyone who receive potions from Persian Rose will smell sweet all year.

Shaker (0171-724 7672). Inspired by the work of the American religious community, the collection encompasses furniture, picture frames, cherrywood storage boxes (from pounds 22.95), very giveable cherrywood kitchen utensils and tinware sconces (from pounds 15.95). There are also beautiful handmade Christmas decorations.

Space NK (0171-814 5909). Stocks all the must-have make-up ranges, such as Stila, Francois Nars (from pounds 12.50), Eve Lom, Elemis and the very Nineties "It's all in your head" shampoo (pounds 10) from Philosophy. Fragrances include the fashionable Antonia's Flowers (pounds 79), Chantecaille (pounds 45) and Philosykos, a fig-based fragrance from Diptyque (pounds 35).

The Victoria & Albert Museum (0171-938 8438). For a historical slant on everyday items such as china and jewellery, as well as leather and bed linen. Includes a William Morris Daisy twill silk tie (pounds 29.95) and a pair of china mugs inspired by a 17th-century Turkish tile (pounds 19.50)