Josh Brocklehurst
4 mins

Christmas can be a developmental goldmine for early years children. It’s chock-a-block full of storytelling, wonder and surprise, epitomised by play and shared moments with loved ones, and filled with exciting sights, sounds and tastes… The Magic of Christmas is a very real thing!

Parents however, can feel a lot of pressure to provide the perfect experience for their little ones - often in the frame of mind of ‘there’s only so many childhood Christmases they will have!’ Gifting in particular can be the root of a lot of anxiety, as its role in a child’s enjoyment of Christmas is seen to be an important one.

During a time where every household is feeling the cost-of-living squeeze, anxieties around gifting and providing a memorable Christmas are as rife as ever, with most having to downsize expectations and shift their overall approach to the festive season just to get through it. However, this downscaling certainly isn’t a bad thing, and is likely the start of a shift in how we approach seasonal consumerism. 

This shifting landscape of Christmas is something brands and retailers are rightfully picking up on and being influenced by. In the UK, judging Christmas adverts is almost an institution - and as a result they tend to mirror nationwide emotions and events quite closely. 

In 2022, picking up on wider societal worries (cost of living, political unrest, environmental concerns… the list goes on!), there consequently seems to be more of a focus on simple Christmas cheer: the inherent fun of the season, and community / family support. 

On the reflecting UK crises front: TK Maxx lets shoppers know they can ‘Nail Christmas for Less’ this year as their core message, to beat the cost of living pinch. Tesco take a more fun and satirical approach, pitching themselves as the ‘Christmas (political) Party’, where joy should be at the core of our experiences.

Other brands are focusing less on what they sell, and are instead aiming to foster the spirit of community and positive action in troubled times. The John Lewis Christmas campaign this year - whilst only scratching the surface of the challenges of fostering and adoption - is in partnership with ‘Action for Children’ & ‘Who Cares? Scotland’, where the core message is focused on promoting awareness of the number of children in care and making their pledge of support. Lidl this year launched a Nationwide toy donation drive in response to charities crying out for toys and games to feed back into communities in need (a desired item by 8/10 of their partner charities, second only behind food). 

Shifts can also be seen in the toy space - reflecting the 2022 mantra of quality and experience over quantity. Looking at Hamleys’ ‘Top 10 Toys for Christmas’, we see a number of iconic brands (Barbie, Play-Doh), favourite characters (Buzz Lightyear) and twists on classic board games (Jenga with an added time-pressure twist). Of course, there is always overlap in top 10 toy lists year on year, but we do seem to be seeing more of a focus on evergreen toys with extra play / replay value and the possibility for generational pass-down - rather than simply ‘fast retail’. 

Going back to Christmas being a developmental goldmine - the magic, wonder, sights, sounds and moments of Christmas are actually much better served in less extravagant, more controlled and meaningful moments. Christmas can definitely be a big upheaval for families compared to everyday life, and this can be stressful for little ones still making sense of how our world works. Christmas doesn’t need much to be magical. 

Christmas is more openly becoming a little less about fast and plentiful consumerism (whether by choice or necessity), in place of more simple joys; sustainable, quality and meaningful gifts, and support for those who need it. To me these seem like positive things to embrace and foster - for both families and the brands that make Christmas what it is. Looking to 2023 we expect this trend to continue - not just for Christmas, but for toys and family experiences more widely, as it’s better for both the environment and consumer wallets. 

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