The Weigh-In on Top Holiday Gifts

Sr. Market Research Analyst

For the most part, results from the 2018 Holiday season seem to be rough. Kohl’s same store sales weakened from 6.9% in 2017 to 1.2% in 2018. Same store sales at Macy’s were only up 1.1%, and were flat for L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, The Limited, and others.

The one bright spot to-date has been Target which posted 5.7% growth in stores open for at least 12 months, an increase from 3.4% in 2017. Even more impressive is that Target’s online sales revenue during the highly competitive time period was up 29%. How did it achieve this? Target’s online orders fulfilled at stores surged 60% compared to last year. While fulfillment is important, aligning your assortment to what consumers actually want to purchase is really the first step to winning the holiday season online.

What were the most desirous gifts this year? We leveraged 1010reveal Shopper Journey to analyze on-site search terms during the period between Black Friday and Christmas. Topping the list for the second holiday season in a row was “Nintendo Switch” followed by “laptop” and “instant pot”. 60% of the top 15 search terms this holiday season were present in the top 15 from last year. It’s no surprise that two of the newcomers include “wireless earbuds” and “airpods” which have gained popularity since Apple’s launch in December 2017. Consumers were also more interested in Amazon gift cards and the Echo Dot, both having moved up in the rankings this year.

*Newcomers to the top 15 in 2018

The most surprising search term of the holiday season was “weighted blankets”, which are blankets filled with heavy material that are designed to ease anxiety by replicating the sensation of being hugged or held. While they’ve been around for over a decade, weighted blankets have finally hit mainstream due in part to aggressive holiday campaigns on Instagram by brands such as Gravity Blanket. Even Time magazine named “blankets that ease anxiety” one of the best inventions in 2018.

Buzz is great, but what about online sales? Our data shows that weighted blanket sales were essentially nonexistent during the 2016 holiday season (Black Friday to Christmas) and totaled roughly $13M online in 2017’s holiday timeframe. Online sales in 2018 have been increasing since the summer and peaked during the holidays at $73M, a 448% increase compared to a year ago. Excluding direct to consumer sites, Amazon Marketplace dominated the space, although Macy’s and Kohl’s saw significant growth in November and December. Top brand YnM has always led the market in ecommerce but shouldn’t fall sleep on the competition, as they’ve recently gained significant ground.

It wouldn’t be surprising if consumer demand for weighted blankets continues as the potential medical benefits become more widely known. One thing is certain - there’s significant activity in the category. Retailers that are able to quickly identify emerging trends such as this one, and strike first, stand to be extremely successful.