Santa Claus Steals Holiday Sales

Carole Sloan, November 27, 2006

When was the last time you saw a feature about a home textiles product on the front of a marketing section of The Wall Street Journal? Perhaps never.

But just in the last couple of weeks, the Journal did a major piece on the new holiday phenomenon — inflatable lawn decorations — perhaps the successor to the ubiquitous icicles that hang year-round from the roofs of many homes across the country.

Now, inflatables are not new. But unlike most consumer products that hit the marketplace with a flash, this year's are bigger, more elaborate — and yes, significantly more expensive than last year's models.

And though we have just passed the Thanksgiving holiday milestone, it's clear that more lawns than not across the United States will be floating Santa's moving carousel, an animated rotating igloo, or any one of the many variations on the Christmas seasonal theme that are on the market now.

What's significant about this phenomenon, and how is this relevant to the world of home textiles, you might ask.

It's not just the size of these imposing holiday decorating icons but their prices as well. Keep in mind that their lifespan is but a few weeks.

Using a Kmart circular from earlier this month as an example, Santa's carousel was a tidy $249.99, while the igloo with happy faced snowmen was a mere $149.99. And to keep them company there was a whole family of "Icy Friends" — outdoor lighted sculptures at $34.99 a pop. Of course, one can't have just one, they need friends.

Let's translate this into home textiles-ese. Santa with his carousel represents the bulk of the top end of most retailers' comforter business, while the igloo is the counterpart to many of the comforter sets sold across the country.

As for the Icy Friends, you could stock up on a set of four Martha Stewart Everyday five-star towels for the price of one.

No wonder some key retail chief executives are downplaying the fashion and newness in home, and home textiles in particular. They've been dealing the price hand, and the market has responded. With Santa and his pals as a holiday buying option, which will win?

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