Retailers and the Ugly Christmas Sweater Phenomenon

December 21, 2015 | B2C Consumer Activations Retail

This past Friday American consumers celebrated national Ugly Christmas Sweater Day with big brands like Macys, Nordstrom and Starbucks cashing in on the trend. The unofficial holiday has been gaining steam since it started in 2011. But ugly sweater retail is no joke. It's big business.

What was once the domain of grandma has now become a viral fashion must-have. Ugly sweater parties celebrate the best and the worst of this unique clothing item. CNBC reports, “All jokes aside, unattractive yet festive holiday sweaters are a growing niche in retail. Major retailers like Target, Kohls and Macy's boast their own collection (perhaps unsurprisingly, Macy's is offering their ugly sweater collection at steeply discounted prices), while numerous specialty sites populate the Web.”

Retailers Making Waves in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Trend

Starbucks got in on ugly sweater retail with a free mini-ugly sweater promotion for customers buying a frappuccino on December 18th. Customers were required to pay with their registered Starbucks Rewards card or the store app to receive their free sweater. In turn, the brand received the associated shout-outs on social media with consumers showing off their gift-wrapped frapp.

Retailer Nordstrom jumped on the trend with ugly holiday sweaters for Christmas and Hanukkah alike, featuring reindeer, snowmen and a menorah. Macy’s also offers holiday sweaters for Hanukkah and Christmas with other holiday-themed merchandise including pajamas, underwear and socks for men, women and juniors. Now the NFL has teamed up with ugly sweater makers to license team logos for use in the designs, making them even uglier if that’s possible.

Ugly Sweater Retail Is Booming

Target is one of many retailers selling the Ugly Christmas Sweater Kit which includes the basic sweater in red or green with felt ornaments, pipe cleaners, tiny wrapped presents, stencils and other materials to create your own personalized, hideous sweater. The kit retails for around $30.

To give you some idea of the numbers involved, Bloomberg Business in a 2014 interview cited these stats from the makers of the do-it-yourself holiday sweater kits. “’I’ve never seen a product or category blow up like this,’ says Meri Barnes, product and business developer for Michael Gerald, the company behind the kit. "Last year we sold more than 35,000," said Barnes. This year, she expects that number to rise to 400,000.

Now go get your ugly on and celebrate the holidays in style.

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Posted by Angel Carra | Request as a Speaker

On the go, mother of two, who believes things happen for a reason. SVP of Sparks Retail focused on driving the best client and customer experience.