- Advent calendars continue to be a hot packaging trend across categories.
- Experts say consumers love the festive concept that allows them to sample products.
- By bundling products, retailers are also pursuing a major margin opportunity.
Back in October, my husband and I were walking through our local Costco when I froze in front of a certain display, a stack of bright red boxes festooned with images of cartoon canines and Christmas lights.
We'd just come across a pile of doggie Advent calendars, filled with a month's worth of treats and toys. I decided on the spot that we needed to buy one for our pooch, Lani. We ended up shelling out $34.99.
In addition to its curated canine box, Costco has a $99.99 wine calendar and a $59.99, beer calendar. Walmart-owned Sam's Club has similar calendar offerings, for considerably cheaper prices. And makeup store Sephora, toy brand Lego, and coffee maker Keurig are just a few other retailers that have adopted the seasonal packaging, too, with offerings that range in price from $19.99 to $599.
"Retailers and brands are also getting better and better at how they package them, and it's a great way to showcase a lot of products in a smaller space," Carol Spieckerman, president of consulting firm Spieckerman Retail, told Insider.
For shoppers looking to splurge, food brand Food52 boasts Advent calendars for popcorn, tea, and licorice, while fragrance company Apotheke also sells two featuring a range of scents, candles, and soaps. There are also extravagant options like the £250 (about $333) calendar from Harrods featuring exclusive beauty finds worth about £1,166 ($1,555), or even the $112,000 Tiffany's advent calendar packed with expensive jewelry.
Spieckerman said that Advent calendars allow retailers and brands to make a tidy profit by subtly encouraging shoppers to spend more.
"Retailers have known this forever, but bundled products blur comparisons," she said. "There might be a shopper here or there that attempts to do the math, but, by and large, these curated collections really defy direct comparisons."
A search of the term "Advent calendar" on Google Trends shows a slow but steady increase of searches every holiday season since 2004. In 2019, inquiries about advent calendars topped Facebook Marketplace's search rankings, along with coffee cups, stocking holders, tree skirts, and ugly Christmas sweaters. New York magazine even published a shopping guide for the best Advent calendars on the market.
Spieckerman told Insider that companies are "escalating in terms of the sheer breadth of categories that they're cramming into" the Advent calendar concept. But brands also view these products as a "real margin opportunity" that's essentially just a "packaging concept more than anything."
Spieckerman said that these products don't cut into holiday sales, either, as they offer shoppers a festive experience to enjoy over the course of a month or so.
As a result, more and more companies are adopting the packaging format. The Dollar Tea Club, a subscription-based tea outfit, is one brand that just introduced a new Advent calendar this year. Their calendars feature 12 to 24 of the year's most popular blends, holiday blends, and a few staff favorites.
"In the past we've been focused on advertising our $1 teas and subscriptions, so this was us taking a chance with trying something new," Dollar Tea Club co-founder and CMO Allan Shulman told Insider. "We had concerns — the price point on this is higher than the average Dollar Tea Club purchase, so we decided to test it out. So far the response has been much greater than we expected and I've had to call our local print shop a few times this week for some last-minute printing."
Advent calendars can also offer shoppers the opportunity to sample new products from a favorite company, according to Spieckerman. One of my colleagues Michael Goodman, a senior editor here at Insider, said that he recently purchased a jam and honey calendar from the French brand Bonne Maman.
"We buy their jams/jellies pretty frequently, so it was kind of perfect benevolent storm for holiday spirit — as well as getting to try some flavors they only make for the advent calendar. Win-win!" he said in a Slack message.
Spieckerman said that one pitfall that could sour shoppers on Advent calendars is widespread "packaging fails." But for the time being, brands will likely continue to find these calendars a highly efficient holiday option.
"They're eye-catching, but they're also easy to merchandise," she said.