Moneyish: People are dropping upwards of $200 on novelty Advent calendars

Countdown the days of December with wine, face masks and scented candles.

Beauty, booze and luxury brands are celebrating the most wonderful time of the year by giving consumers a taste of their product lines through Advent calendars.

Advent is a season marked by many Christians that counts the 24 days leading up to the birth of Jesus on December 25. Candymakers eventually commodified the holiday tradition with Santa Claus-clad calendars featuring 24 cardboard cutout doors with a sweet hidden behind each for children to open every night of Advent. But now the childhood favorite calendars are all grown up, with beauty products leading the charge.

This year, luxury fashion website Net-a-Porter is hawking a $208 Advent calendar set celebrating 25 days of beauty, which includes mini bottles of its best-sellers such as Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Creme (worth $30); Leonor Greyl shampoo (typically $51); and Goldfaden MD’s “Brightening Elixir” skin serum ($80), all tucked behind pullout doors.

Target is selling a more accessible $20 holiday kit, which features dry shampoo, makeup brushes, bath bombs and anti-aging moisturizer from favorite brands such as Bliss and Maybelline.

“Novelty Advent calendars are not only hot, they are also a great tactic for companies to connect with audiences, with a triple threat of nostalgia, irony and hipness all rolled into one branded message,” Curtis Sparrer, a consumer expert at Bospar PR, told Moneyish. “Why wouldn’t you do it?”

And many brands are getting on board. In the last five years, search queries and interest in unique Advent calendars have spiked by 20%, according to Google Trends, with the beauty brands like Charlotte Tilbury, L’Occitane and NYX Cosmetics among the top searchers.

And the packaging for alternative Advent calendars is expected to be just as exciting as what’s inside, market research firm NPD group predicted in its “8 Expectations for Holiday 2018” report. For example, Booze Bud’s Advent calendar is designed to look like a six-pack, boasting beer, hard cider, wine, gin and whisky calendars for $100 to $200 (depending on the case), with a dozen 1-ounce shots behind each cut-out door. Buyers can even personalize the pack with a special note when ordering online. And if shoppers really want to get lit this season, ultra luxury French brand Diptyque totes 15 mini candles, perfumes and oils for a pricy $425 (surprisingly a steal, considering one 6.5-ounce candle costs $65). It’s presented in a foldable display set that can double as a jewelry box after the holidays are over.

Advent calendars are becoming more playful in the toy department, too. The Christmas “Force” is strong with Lego, which brings a stormtrooper-packed “Star Wars” Advent calendar ($34) to the table. Each door opens to a mini figure, starship, vehicle and other galactic collectibles. The packaging also turns into a foldout playmat.

Experts say that Advent calendars aren’t exactly a money-maker for brands, however, but rather a way to push out some of their best-sellers and lure in new consumers.

“Typically something like that [an Advent calendar] isn’t even profitable to the company; it’s very expensive, but they’re selling it for other reasons; for branding,” Nandie Welch, partner and head of business strategy at Rupture Studio, a strategy consultancy firm, told Moneyish. “It’s a great vehicle to include a whole bunch of trial products into people’s home. What brand doesn’t want to be a part of your at-home countdown to the big day?”

It’s all part of what is expected to be a strong holiday spending season. Sales are predicted to increase to 4.8% over last year’s 4.3%, and total sales for the season could reach $720.89 billion, compared with $687.87 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

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