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OPINION – A Christmas cajole: The year that Covid changed everything

The coronavirus may have changed what Christmas looks like this year, but as long as you’ve adapted to the shifting trends and planned yourselves some savvy marketing, Toyologist, Peter Jenkinson believes the goose is still looking good and plump.

It’ll be a Yule like no other. That seasonal spike in toy sales in the final weeks simply won’t happen, there just isn’t the capacity across the delivery driver network for it to happen.

Some of us might have a cheeky trip to the high street to see the lights, perhaps pick up a few bits, but Covid is the nail in the cliché coffin. The high street will always exist but it’ll need to work as a complementary outlet to online – and here, the opportunities are huge.

“Christmas is far from cancelled, but what we are buying this year, and how, has seen a seismic shift.”

For this Christmas, far from being cancelled (although anything could happen) right now it’s not just the way we’re buying that’s altering significantly but what we’re buying that is seeing a seismic shift in 2020. We know that toy sales have been enjoying a lockdown lift, and that is bound to have an impact on Q4 sales. We’ve spent more time indoors with our families, we’ve got to know them a little more, and, as a result will be more bespoke in our buying for them. A big decrease in the piling of the present haul but more considered purchases, bigger ticket items even, very much reflected in this year’s Argos top toy list.

Creativity is going to play a part in gifting, a well-placed family picture in a hand painted frame for example, a retro toy for a parent, a game for the family to play together, something with a personal touch; gifting that makes a connection, tells a story or enables you to tell one. There’s also a trend towards pre-Xmas gifting, sending a box of crackers and fairy-lights, a stocking full of Christmas cheer to get folks in the mood, starting the spirit of Christmas a little earlier (and do send spirits, that always helps).

It’s been tougher than ever to get a real steer on what’s hot for the Christmas shop with no July based retailer events to talk the proverbial turkey with other journalists about their picks for gift guides. We miss the buffet food samples most of all. Gifting guides across press and broadcast will likely be much more considered too, much less “let’s fill these pages” and much more “now what would I buy for my mum/dad/insert other relative and or friend here”.

To this end don’t send your entire product look books with all your wares inside, try and be a bit more bespoke about it, target your editorial staff, they really do notice, and you’re only a click away from the trash folder if an email pitch looks too generic.

We did some work recently on the changing face of Xmas and the consensus was that this 25th December is a bit of a beacon, a chance to put a pin in the end of a rather average 2020, an outpost for us all to be optimistic about, it will certainly be a Christmas we’ll never forget.

Peter Jenkinson is a tech and toy journalist known for his toy buying guides with the national papers and television appearances with Philip Schofield

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