Christmas in May

May 01, 2005 9:30 PM  By

It’s never to soon to start thinking about the all-important holiday season. Before the gift-buying frenzy typically gets under way, customers are stocking up on holiday decorating items. Considering what a huge business holiday home decor has become, it’s crucial for gifts and decorative accessories merchants to be up on the current trends.

Once upon a time, Christmas decorations were all about the tree ornaments. In years past, when I was a Christmas trim buyer for Gump’s and Bullock’s department stores, every year we had to come up with our themes for the holidays. Then we would fly off to Germany and elsewhere in the world to choose the most distinctive ornaments we could find to display on our themed trees. From Victorian to woodland themes, we made it happen. Back then, the ornament was our focus, the collectible of collectibles for all those customers out there who couldn’t wait for the next Christmas season to arrive in order to purchase more ornaments for their tree. We rode the crest of this wave all through the ’80s and early ’90s.

During this period, along came Christopher Radko, the Christmas tree ornament maven who revived the German glass ornament business and turned it into the biggest Christmas collectible in our lifetime. But Radko also ended up changing the face of Christmas trim, decimating the competition and eliminating the wonderful choices of that genre. So the customer went off to find alternative Christmas decor for the table, the mantle, the door, the home, the garden, the front lawn.

So where are we today? After the horror of 2001, customers decided that home for the holidays was where they wanted to be. The consumer’s passion for decorating has reached greater heights than ever. Not one tree, but a tree for every room! These may not all be live trees; faux trees can be prelit so that you don’t have to bother having to string all those lights every year. Convenience is key; instant gratification is everything. We now have Christmas lights inside and outside the home as well as lit deer, angels, Santa and sleigh, stockings, trains — you can even light palm trees if you happen to live in the tropics!

On the mantels we’re putting our angels and above the mantels our Christmas tapestries. Angels were warm last year; this year they will be hot. Another addition to the mantel are tabletop trees; they will be everywhere this year, in all sizes and all themes. They’re all stylish and can add a bit of Christmas decor in any room without having to create a mega-tree.

Oh, don’t forget about the garden, please. We have to add items such as a lovely kneeling angel with lighted faux pine tree in a resin urn (such as the one shown left), just in case we have no evergreen trees of our own out there. We also might add walkway lit stakes to impress our neighbors.

Speaking of impressing the neighbors, our customers are entertaining more than ever and bringing out the whimsical cake stands to the table with the holiday red chair covers. And don’t forget those holiday linens that they have stored away for every season — a must have along with the Christmas dinnerware. (I always wonder where our customers have the room to store all these holiday decorations, which they have to bring out every year — I suppose that’s why those houses are getting bigger and bigger.)

And while we are doing all this entertaining, we should note that holiday apparel has become more sophisticated. We’ve thrown out some of those juvenile Christmas-themed garments (think Santa sweaters) and are now wearing fancy fare that’s not as in-your-face holiday (think black-velvet mules embossed with a small sequined poinsettia). One of my favorites is a wonderful burgundy tunic that looks fabulous for the holidays but can be worn all year round.

One factor influencing the trends in holiday apparel and home items is the wider spectrum of color. There have been myriad colors throughout the past two decades of Christmas seasons. Last year we saw a lot more pink, with lighter and softer greens as well as blues and violets as part of holiday decor. But remember that red and green will always outsell pink, blue, purple, or any other color. We tend to go through periods of true red or off-red, dark green or lime, but we always seem to revert back to the original colors of Christmas.

The major holiday theme, which seems to be appearing more and more these days, is one of nostalgia. There are many items out there, such as the old firetruck or antiqued teddy bears, old electric trains or updated record players, which appeal to all ages and all parts of the country. We’re now seeing another trend that corresponds with our nostalgic craze, and that’s the reemergence of games — all kinds but especially “casino anything” types of entertainment for the home, most likely derived from the popular Celebrity Poker TV show.

What’s next, you ask? I can see in my crystal ball lots of quilting, chests of antique ornaments, shelves of heirloom Christmas Santas and snowmen, garlands of icy snowflakes, pies cooking in the Aga, flea-market finds, and loads of needlepoint. A strong wind of vintage reminiscent of the early 1900s is wafting in our future.

Our lives have become a look back to those times when Christmas and other holidays were all about family, home, and tradition. What else is there in our lives these days to remind us of those magical days of yore when life was simple and Americans did not know what the word “terror” meant?


Kathy Revello is president of Kathy Revello Associates, a catalog merchandising consultancy based in Sunnyvale, CA.

MERCHANDISE TREND WATCH

What’s Hot & What’s Not

Holiday is always hot, but what about the rest of the year? Many general gift and decor trends are generating buzz, but it can be hard to keep up with what’s in vogue — and what your customers are most likely to want to buy. After scouring the major merchandise markets for the latest and greatest in terms of color, themes, and design motifs, Sunnyvale, CA-based merchandising consultant Kathy Revello weighs in on what’s in and what’s out.

HOT NOT
Gypsy Tailored
Funky chandeliers Brass chandeliers
Alternative wall decor Prints
Soft modern Hard lines
Home office Corporate office
Ottoman coffee tables Glass coffee tables
Kitchens Living rooms
Media rooms/game rooms Dens
Entertaining at home Dining out
Borderless rugs Wall-to-wall carpet
Window and door decor motifs Wreaths
Reds Pinks
Stripes Plaids
Multicolor Monochromatic
Bistro Ascot
Natural fibers Poly anything
Silk flowers Dried flowers
Embellishments Untextured
Asian fusion American country