Tale of Two Seasons

July 11, 2014
Written by Michelle Brisebois
After last year’s cold and long winter, one wonders if anybody will really want to think about Christmas this year. Fortunately, Christmas seems to be more popular than ever.

The National Retail Federation in the United States reports more than 68 per cent of consumers celebrate Christmas – the highest level seen since 2011. However, Christmas seems to have two distinctive flavours. Christmas remains an important religious holiday rich with tradition and emotional meaning for many people. For others, the holidays are about presents, parties and décor.

Metallics  
Metallics continue to be popular choices for the season.

 
For retailers, buying Christmas inventory is tricky. You have a fairly short window within which to move your product, and by December 26, that mug with a Santa on it has lost its allure. For this year’s trend report, we thought it would be good to consider both holiday consumer profiles: the traditionalist who loves the emotional aspect to the season and the social butterfly who wants convenience and style. As we examine this year’s emerging holiday trends, you’ll see that while they are quite different from each other, you can target both segments and still be efficient … if you focus.

November is the new black
Americans typically celebrate the day after their Thanksgiving by stampeding their local retailers en masse. Black Friday heralds the start to the holiday shopping season and is the retailing equivalent to pulling the trigger on a starter pistol, beginning the race to Christmas. For the last couple of years, Canadian retailers have opted to get in on the action. Because Canadian stores have begun promoting Black Friday, Colliers Spring Retail Study found that November now accounts for 8.7 per cent of full-year retail sales in Canada, compared to less than 8.2 per cent ten years ago.

Though December remains the most important shopping month, the Colliers study shows it continues to grow less important for the retail industry in Canada, accounting for 9.3 per cent of annual sales in 2013, compared to more than 10 per cent a decade ago. Make sure you have a Black Friday campaign in place to get in on the action. This trend appeals to the traditionalist who loves the ritual of shopping.

Not a creature was stirring – except for my mouse
Many retailers who sell fresh trees are partnering with delivery services to allow people to purchase a tree online and then have it delivered to their house. The National Christmas Tree Association reports that although online sales represent only three per cent of the $1-billion U.S. holiday tree market, more retailers are leveraging the Internet to sell them.

A traditionalist would gasp at the notion of having a tree delivered – it lacks the family bonding, tradition and hot cocoa connected to purchasing a real tree. The social butterfly loves the convenience of the delivery (no pine needles in the car).

This trend reminds us that having an online store is vitally important, especially for those shoppers who don’t want to tussle with others in the mall. Cyber Monday (the Monday after Black Friday dedicated to online sales) has become as big as Black Friday, so if you have an e-commerce site, make sure you have some promotional offers in place. The social butterfly will love the convenience of online shopping.

Gilding the lily
Metallics have been a strong trend for a couple of years now, and they’re still big in the décor sector. Brass, pewter and copper are all ways to riff on the traditional gold and silver. Kristen Bradbury, accessory buyer for Andrew Peller Limited, sees the metallic trend represented as a more matte finish than the shiny silver and gold of yesteryear. “Copper is especially big and is a continuation of our obsession with orange over the last few years,” she says.

Bradbury also notes that bling hasn’t gone away but it’s no longer an over-the-top disco sparkle – instead it’s just a gentle shimmer. This trend is geared more towards the social butterfly consumer who sees their tree as a décor statement as opposed to an emotional one.

Tone on tone and traditional
Champagne is a big colour this year. Just a shade off of white, it looks lovely layered with other neutral shades like butter, white and taupe.

“The metallic shades look great when layered into a neutral palette,” says Bradbury.

Varying shades of white and cream accented with copper, pewter or brass would be very elegant and potentially offer a great solution to a couple where one is a traditionalist and one is a social butterfly.

For the full-on traditionalist, red and green is still the most popular colour scheme. The green is a Granny Smith apple shade and the red is scarlet with white as an accent.

As far as fabrics go, Bradbury highlights a rustic, textured direction. “Burlap is big in Christmas stockings and tree skirts and decorations. Knitted items are also popular, especially if they are Fair Isle, and Scandinavia is a big influence aesthetically.”

From French Court to the Roaring Twenties
Whether the theme is traditional or fashionable, a nod to the past is evident in this year’s holiday trends, as showcased at the Dallas Holiday and Home Expo this past January. The baroque period is a Christmas design trend that looks great in the neutral shades and is celebrated with images of fleurs-de-lis, swirling designs and anything that suggests 17th-century French royalty.

Art deco is also still very popular, leveraging feathers and pearls in shades of peacock and black. A tree or arrangement done in lovely neutral shades of champagne would offer a fabulous base to accent with some art deco-inspired pieces.

Both of these first two trends would appeal to the social butterfly customer who wants a trendy tree.

For the traditionalist, the Dallas show points to a trend they’ve dubbed, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Here’s where shades of red and green are shown on decorations with a real post-World War II look and feel. Think rocking horses, mayberry, muted – almost faded – shades and elements including vintage sleds, wooden toys and gingham.

Polar bears are still popular and becoming even more prevalent. Reindeer aren’t depicted in a cartoonish manner; rather, they are slim and elegant with lovely, swirling horns. Picture a Scandinavian winter wonderland and you’ve got the right idea. Santa is depicted more like Father Christmas with flowing robes rather than our typical version with the big belt buckle, black boots and potbelly.

Large, lacy snowflakes are strong. “An item with an image of a snowflake could easily still command a good price even after Christmas,” says Bradbury. “It’s always good to have those items that can have a retail life into the winter months to enhance your sell-through.”

When a customer walks into your store, train your staff to observe which displays make their eyes light up. But what about the couple who can’t agree on whether to go trendy or traditional? Show them how to take a neutral base and make it trendy right up until the week before Christmas, when they can swap out the art deco for the handcrafted, traditional touches. After all, we’re aiming for peace on earth and goodwill to all men, aren’t we?


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