Thought Bubble: Hot gifts for the holidays

December 23, 2015
5 min read

With Christmas just a few days away, our global expert analysts share their thoughts on the year’s hottest holiday gifts. You just might find one of these popular presents waiting for you under the tree…

Analysts_blog-SGStacy Glasgow, Consumer Trends Consultant

To uncover what US consumers really want this holiday season, first consider these three questions that recipients might ask of gift givers – and consumers might ask of brands:

1. Is it connected?

Mintel Trend The Suite Life examines how the Internet of Things (IoT) can improve lives by syncing our homes, our appliances and our bodies. Consumers look forward to unwrapping anything connected, and we’ve seen an intriguing onslaught from which to choose.

Raincheck Box is a smart umbrella stand that will tell users whether it’s going to rain. The Raincheck stand features eight lights that change color according to outdoor conditions, and it uses to generate weather updates every 15 minutes.

2. Can I stay on my couch?

Consumers expect that anything will be brought directly to them, wherever they are. They would welcome unique and useful gifts that are delivered speedily and directly.

In honor of motion picture Home Alone’s [1990] 25th anniversary, in four US cities the UberEATS app sent users personalized pizzas in boxes that said “Little Nero’s” (the name of the pizzeria in the film). The pizza was made by local area restaurants and came with a code for customers to download a copy of the movie for free.

3. Is it more than “just stuff?” 

In today’s experience economy, consumers seek unique thrills, and many would rather receive an experience – or something that can facilitate one – than a mere material possession. Look to retailers and brands everywhere for inspiration in providing those distinctive experiences; bonus points if it comes in the form of virtual reality (VR). Tommy Hilfiger is the first retailer to introduce VR headsets for shoppers in its flagship stores worldwide.

The Samsung Gear VR headset allows shoppers to go on a virtual trip to the label’s fall fashion show in New York. The goal is to allow shoppers who may never attend a fashion show to be able to shop the season’s runway styles.

Analysts_blog-RC Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant

Virtual Reality headsets are set to engage, amuse and teach consumers, making them the ideal big ticket gift this Christmas. The only problem is that Oculus Rift et al aren’t coming on to the market until the new year – too late even for the January sales, never mind Santa’s sack, and often come with a hefty price tag.

However, The Merge VR takes the principles of the more budget friendly Google Cardboard – affordable access to VR apps – but recasts them in a material less likely to get confused with Christmas wrapping. The Merge also comes in purple, rubberised, ‘marshmallow’ form, which gives it the appearance of a toy and a more family-friendly durability.

For older parents, there will be a touch of ‘Christmas Past’ as the Merge recalls stereoscopic Viewmaster toys of the past. But with 53% of UK 16-24s interested in VR headsets, the appeal here is less about nostalgia and more about a fun entry level stop gap before the main products arrive next year.

Analysts_blog-ncNick Carroll, Retail Analyst

We expect that the general trends in gift buying seen in the past five years will be adhered to in 2015. Mintel research indicates that clothing and footwear have been the most popular gifts to purchase in recent years, followed by perfumes and aftershaves, and toys and games are clearly a big part of the day.

In terms of where people are buying, last year we found that three-quarters of UK consumers purchased online. As retailers have become multi-channel so too have consumers with a majority of consumers mixing their purchasing between stores and online. When asked about their purchasing habits for 2015, one fifth of consumers said they will do more of their shopping online this year so we expect to continue to see strong growth through online channels in December.

We expect that positive consumer confidence, low price inflation and subdued Black Friday spending should see demand in December hold up very well. Perhaps to stand out in a competitive market this year we have seen more retailers than ever launch pre-Christmas sales, particularly in the clothing, footwear and accessories categories. The mild autumn and winter have left some retailers struggling to clear seasonal lines leading to excess stock and pre-Christmas bargains. The reduced interest in Black Friday will also not have helped. Whilst we are sceptical of such a strategy, discounting ahead of Christmas undermines both a retailers price-integrity and its ability to capitalise on what is expected to be strong demand, this trend is a bonus for consumers leading up to the big day.


Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

Richard Cope is Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel. He works as a trends analyst, consultant, presenter and facilitator on bespoke client projects. As a globally recognised leading trends commentator, he is regularly called on by media worldwide to provide insight and analysis into consumer trends.

Nick Carroll is a Retail Analyst at Mintel and currently writes a range of UK & European retail reports. Prior to joining Mintel, Nick worked for over eight years in retail for both Jones Bootmaker and Barratts.

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