All Decked Out

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Americans are scooping up holiday displays - just not all at Christmas.

This Christmas, marketers of holiday decorations may be saying a collective, "Bah Humbug."

Sales of St. Nick-related paraphernalia appear to be waning, according to a recent study by Unity Marketing in Stevens, Pennsylvania. Revenues of Christmas decorations and collectibles fell by nearly 2 percent in 1999, the third such decline since 1997. In particular, Americans seem to have lost their penchant for collectibles, which represent about 41 percent of total yuletide sales. Among active collectibles consumers, only 20 percent described themselves as Christmas collectors last year, compared with 54 percent in 1998. What's more, Christmas collecting today ranks fifth behind coins, figurines and sculptures, trading cards, memorabilia, and dolls.

But there is still some reason to celebrate. The Unity Marketing study, entitled "The Market for Christmas Decor and Collectibles," found that increasing numbers of consumers are decorating their homes for other holidays, and buying decorations and collectibles that have more year-round appeal. "Consumers are taking the money they used to spend on Christmas and are spending it on decorations throughout the year," says Pam Danziger, president and CEO of Unity Marketing. "There is an interest among consumers in changing decor seasonally and decorating the home throughout the year, such as purchasing Easter items in spring, Fourth of July decorations in summer, and Halloween and harvest merchandise in the fall."

Danziger says the popularity of do-it-yourself home improvement projects has driven consumers to adorn their abodes with more seasonal decorations. "Martha Stewart has been instrumental in showing people how to decorate their homes for different seasons," says Danziger. "She's made it a cool thing to do."

Since 1996, sales of seasonal decor have risen consistently each year. From 1998 to 1999, sales climbed 16 percent from $3.35 million to $3.87 million. In response to consumers' preferences for decorative items that can be displayed for Christmas or for an extended season, manufacturers and retailers are stocking shelves with angels, snowmen, and figurines, which have become best-sellers over the more traditional items such as collectible-type ornaments.

"We see snowmen taking over as a theme for Christmas," says Danziger. "The winter theme, in general, carries over into January or February among consumers." In addition, there are more than 1,600 year-round specialty Christmas stores, plus many gift and collectibles stores that have plenty of holiday merchandise on hand from January to December.

But don't throw out that Santa display just yet. The enduring sense of family and tradition linked to the yuletide season will keep cash registers ringing for some time to come. Last year, the Christmas decor segment accounted for 50 percent of the overall seasonal decor market. All of that eggnog and tinsel inspired 60 percent of Americans (119 million adults) to buy Christmas decorative items to the tune of $3.2 billion.

For more information, contact Unity Marketing at (717) 336-1600 or visit their Web site at

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