When consumers search for holiday content online and in stores, they are still more likely than not to encounter Christmas-themed movies, home decor and gifting items. But that is beginning to change, as American institutions increasingly embrace multicultural festivities. According to a report by global data and business intelligence platform Statista, retail sales over the 2023 holiday season are projected to be between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion, a marked jump from $929.5 billion in re
retail sales the year before. A separate report from Statista confirmed that in 2022, US consumers spent an average of $920 on Christmas gifts alone. While Christmas may still be the primary focus of retailers and media channels in the US, there has been a notable increase in products geared towards other festive occasions, including Hanukkah and Lunar New Year. Big-box retail stores like Target, Walmart and Crate & Barrel now carry items, such as Hannukah-themed gift wraps and children’s books showcasing a variety of holidays, in stores, while online, they have entire sections dedicated to Hannukah-related goods, such as Hannukah cookie kits and porcelain dreidel sculptures. Kayla Marci, a senior retail analyst at retail intelligence company Edited, told Inside Retail that e-commerce retailers in the US have increased the number of Hanukkah products they carry by 61 per cent year over year. Addison Cain, a beauty strategy and innovation manager at consumer behavior and trend analysis company Spate, shared that the average number of Google searches for Hannukkah has reached 874,700 per month, an increase of 38.2 per cent year over year. There is also growing consumer interest in Lunar New Year, which sees an average of 1.3 million Google searches per month, a 5.7 per cent increase year over year. Authentic representation, or distasteful pandering? In addition to the increase in media representation, government legislation continues to further recognize multicultural holidays in different parts of the country. For example, in September 2023, legislation signed by Governor Kathy Hochul marked Lunar New Year as a public holiday across New York state, giving students and their families a day off to celebrate the occasion. While there are certainly opportunities to create products that suit the interests of a wider net of consumers celebrating holidays other than Christmas, American retailers need to approach these markets with caution. Although some consumers may appreciate Lunar New Year-themed products, others, like Frederic Chen, a Chinese-American influencer with over 500,000 TikTok followers, feel that the products made by American retailers often come across as a lazy way to engage with this audience. Chen pointed out that beauty brands Clinique and Laura Mercier’s limited-edition Lunar New Year drops, which are already being promoted despite the holiday being several months away, rely heavily on a tired formula of red-and-gold packaging featuring the animal of the year. For 2024, it is the year of the wood dragon. Rather than creating near-identical packaging year after year, Chen suggested that retailers should take a similar approach to Lush, which has previously collaborated with Hong Kong-based designers to create unique colorful designs for the company’s Lunar New Year collections. In addition to collaborating with Asian and Asian-American creatives, brands can authentically engage with consumers by including information about multicultural holidays on their e-commerce sites and social media channels, or by leaning into the sentimentality of the season. In an Edited report, “Consumer Moments: Lunar New Year – Insights for 2024”, Marci recommended that retailers invest in nostalgic licensing. “For brands landing dedicated ranges, products embedded with nostalgia traditionally experience success for the holiday. The Year of the Dragon offers several scaly characters reminiscent of our childhoods alongside more recent pop culture editions,” she said. Several examples Marci discussed in the report included Mushu from Mulan, Haku from Spirited Away, and Sisu from Raya and the Last Dragon. The retail analyst elaborated that brands should be specific with the items they drop in Lunar New Year collections, citing data from earlier this year, which showed that in menswear, “tops remained the staple to design into. However, retailers dedicated a high portion of their ranges year-over-year to footwear and outerwear.” In the womenswear market, Marci pointed out that “accessories surpassed tops as the most invested in category year-over-year for Lunar New Year ranges, experiencing a three percent increase in product count.” The accessories category this year was driven by new arrivals in handbags, led by Loewe’s bunny collection for the Year of the Rabbit.