2011 Christmas Tree Themes
By Dorothy Creamer, Editor
Retailers and manufacturers understand the importance of creating an environment for shoppers. Vendors will spend countless months preparing their showrooms for market buyers and retailers will utilize many of those themes in their own establishments.
"We try to provide our buyers with a variety of options for their selling season," Deb Weidenbach, AIFD, product development director at Sullivans, notes. "We offer ideas in colors, trends and visual display concepts which they can interpret for their own customer's needs."
For 2011, Sullivans' designs will revolve around vintage, whimsical and traditional concepts. "I think that we will see a lot of mixing the old with the new," Weidenbach notes. "Customers will continue to purchase, but we will see them buying items that they will add to last year's SKUs to create an overall new look."
Themes of Christmas Past
Kelly Corcoran, design trend manager for Midwest-CBK admits that trends for 2011 will be a result of the challenging economic times. "Consumers tend to return to comfort in terms of styles, colors and designs that feel familiar and inviting," Corcoran states. "Traditional Christmas is more important than ever as consumers focus on spending time with family and entertaining."
Corcoran cites the renewed focus on family traditions as the reason that nostalgic themes will prevail. "For the Midwest-CBK brand, that is expressed as classic Christmas scenes that evoke memories of childhood and of family gatherings," she declares. "Characters like jolly Santa, cheerful snowmen and prancing reindeer bring fond memories. Vintage-inspired designs that are elegant and formal present an heirloom quality while providing comfort."
Weidenbach stresses the importance of retailers displaying products in captivating displays. "They need to show their customers a variety of ways to use each product and that the product is not one-dimensional," she explains. She foresees a cottage chic style becoming an overriding look and that reds and bright colors will emerge as favorites. "Gingerbread or cookies along with anything driven by nature - especially birds - will be strong," she predicts.
Hobbies, Icons and Colors - oh My!
Cliff Adler, chief executive of Kurt Adler, admits that it can be difficult to pinpoint what will be the most popular trend. "Since trends are so subjective, we try to have a large variety of themes in order to appeal to all different targets," he explains. "For 2011, we have added a dance theme, since dancing has become much more popular due to the huge viewership of shows like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance."
Similarly, Adler credits other shows such as Top Chef and cooking competitions on the Food Network, with perpetuating the popularity of food motifs.
Of course traditional Christmas themes are perennial favorites and Adler reveals that the company will be offering an assortment of traditional Santa and red and green products, plus themes that feature recognizable Christmas icons with a twist on design and color.
Danny McDonald, vice president of Regency International, agrees that the traditional themes will always be very strong, but he does see jewel tones such as fuchsia, purple and blue gaining momentum. "We will incorporate both the very traditional red, green, candy, gingerbread and peppermint themes in our showrooms, but we will also include schemes that showcase the popularity of peacock, silver/white and ice and snow styles," McDonald advises.
Brad Gullion, vice president/sales & marketing for Melrose, believes that while traditional themes are always the top-sellers, he notes that creams and warm browns had gained popularity for 2010. "We are expanding on that color combination as well as plums and purples with deep shades of copper and brown," Gullion notes. "Our themes overall will range from lodge and country to mod holiday."
Midwest-CBK will be offering a range of styles from traditional and elegant to contemporary, storybook and whimsical. A few of the planned themes include such concepts as "Vintage Santa" with a pop of fashion colors and heirloom quality, "Long John's" the playful elf theme with long striped and polka dotted stockings and "Merry, Merry" a balance between classic snowmen and modern geometric patterns and finishes.
Department 56 is introducing themes with classic icons that have a bit of a modern twist. The popular Snowbabies line is yielding the SnoDream theme which offers a new look for holiday trim and Snowpinions which Pam Schechtman from Department 56 describes as "snowmen with attitude."
Running the Yule Gamut
Bob Hampton, product development designer for Direct Export, confesses that he is always in Christmas mode. "We have already started on 2012," he reveals. "It is a year-round process to develop our themes."
For 2011, Hampton describes several of the themes that Direct Export is debuting, each very different from the last, yet they all complement one another.
A "Yuletide Classics" theme is planned that will utilize a lot of botanicals with red and white florals such as amaryllis and chrysanthemum. "This will have a very sophisticated look and we'll mix that with evergreens, pine and cedar," Hampton describes. "We'll also be using a great deal of the apple green, because it's become such a popular color. Our main entry will be predominantly about reds, whites and the apple green."
Another more traditional theme that Direct Export is introducing is "Candy Jar." This look combines the classic feel of an old candy store, but will depart from merely just the peppermint swirl colors by adding in multi-hued gum drops and other confectionary fruits and pastries.
Hampton expects the breadth of Direct Export's themes to appeal to everyone in some way. A "Winter Park" theme will offer flocked branches and natural items including snowed animals. "Twilight" boasts iridescent hues with pearl whites and a little bit of silver. "Highland Court" uses primary colors, but mixes them with bronze golds, celery and chocolate hues.
What's in a Name?
Hampton believes that it is important to identify a collection and encourages retailers to follow this principle by titling their vignettes. "People relate to a name," he says. "Then you can build upon that concept and decide what items are needed to create it. It's so important to have that regardless of where you fit in the market."
Hampton stresses that the merchandising and display of items is really the key to success. "Regardless of what size space a retailer has, it is important to decide what themes you want to present and tell that story," he asserts. "It's better to do less, but really make an impact. When a consumer comes in they should have a very concerted direction."
Midwest-CBK takes great pride in providing merchandising and selling support to its retail customers. "For each of our collections, we create large scale display pieces for store merchandising and also demonstrate creative display ideas throughout our catalog," Corcoran notes. "We provide sales training to our sales team that allows them to build a story or program that is unique to their customer's store or region. Finally we generate excitement from our January showroom displays and provide a CD that shares the how-tos of those displays."
The Christmas Store in Tyler, Texas, is one of the many holiday retail stores that utilize themes in its 10,000-square-foot shop. Angie Bullington, manager, reveals that every year The Christmas Store sets up a minimum of nine themed trees. Bullington admits that she and owner Ralph Davis, will attend the markets and get ideas from the major showrooms to see what is hot for the upcoming year. "We will pick what we want from the shows and place our orders based on the themes we want to do," Bullington notes. "The designers will take it from there and play with what we've ordered."
Bullington explains that out of the themes The Christmas Store will create, there will be several that are perennials. The traditional Santa, snowmen and nutcracker themes will come back every year. "We always have at least one designer tree that is pure fantasy," Bullington reveals. "Last year, we had a silver theme for one, but this year we made it silver and peacock. We also have what we call the 'Man Tree.' It has ornaments depicting fishing, hunting, a six-pack of beer and golf bags, plus shot gun shell lights and camouflage material for the tree skirt and ribbons."
Bullington reveals that shoppers love seeing the completed trees. "We had several people who said they wanted a particular tree, so we pulled all the decorations together for them and then we'll have designers who will go and do it at their home for them," Bullington states.
For buyers who do want to put a look together themselves, Bullington recognizes the importance of making the items within the themes easily accessible. "We have a rack beside every tree with everything that is featured in the theme, except for ribbons, picks and sprays" those are in a separate area," Bullington admits.
Matt Wood, the creative director of Winward, expresses that all importers, manufacturers and distributors of holiday product struggle with the decision of how to set product. "Indexing makes it so much easier to shop, but visually, a setting inspires the customer to buy," Wood claims. "At Winward we try to find a balance of the two so that on more commodity type items like ribbon, vinyl/greenery or Santas we will index, while large display pieces we will group to show the customer how to use them."
Winward is promoting a Winter Bliss theme. "It will also be popular again, because it deals with winter as a season and not necessarily just a holiday setting," Wood notes. "Ice, snow and branches go very well with our permanent botanicals."
Hampton reveals that he is very price conscious when building the line and presentation for Direct Export. "I tend to have products that I consider middle to higher end, but it's very important to have a broad base of price points," he explains. "A secret for retailers is to create a vignette that features everything, including those with lower price points. I'll try to make sure that within each look, I have pieces that are very affordable."
Corcoran stresses that buyers are looking for affordability and quality. "We are very conscious of consumer attitudes toward spending," she notes. "Consumers are willing to pay for things, if they are quality."