Counting Down To Christmas, Beautifully

Alison Wiltshire

25 Nov 2020

Advent calendars for just the kids? No way. One in three American consumers bought or was gifted an advent calendar last year.

One of the biggest sellers are those packed with beauty products. In a year when visits to our favorite beauty counters have been sadly curtailed, the arrival of this year’s calendar gives us the opportunity to discover new brands, fresh colours and clever products. It’s both an affordable treat, and a great gift. (For me, the biggest challenge is not to open every door on day one.) Real-time social proof messaging can play a role in helping the shopper navigate the ranges on offer and choose with confidence.

We can thank Liberty, the iconic store in London’s Regent Street, for coming up with the idea. Liberty’s first beauty advent calendar was launched in 2016 and it rapidly became the fastest selling product in its 145-year history. Retailers and brands everywhere have since embraced the idea with enthusiasm and there’s a calendar for every taste and every price point. But you have to move fast to get your hands on your favorite – Liberty’s is already sold out (although the $250 men’s version is still available at the time of writing and delivered internationally). No wonder magazines round up and review beauty advent calendars months before they go on sale. 

Some leading retailers put together their own collections. For example, Macy’s 25 Days Of Beauty Advent Calendar costs $99 and includes $434 worth products from major brands. At Neiman Marcus, on the other hand, you can choose Molton Brown’s $250 advent calendar containing body care products or AERIN’s 12 days of fragrance. Nordstrom’s range (including Charlotte Tilbury, Acqua di Parma and Dr Barbara Sturm) has already sold out. After months of video calls and mask wearing, good skincare is more important than ever this holiday season. Elemis has a calendar worth $559 selling at $250 and Kiehl’s limited edition of $207 value retails at  $98.00. 

There’s plenty of choice for the budget conscious. Sephora’s Wild Wishes Advent Calendar is $45.00 and for $20 Ulta has a 12 day ‘beauty garland countdown’ which also doubles as a festive decoration. You can even pick up a 25 piece Hello Kitty OPI nail lacquer calendar for $61.99 from Walmart, while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Buying a beauty advent calendar for yourself might be easy (Elemis would be my choice) but if it’s a gift there are so many to choose from ( today lists 430) and a bit of guidance online will be helpful. For Generation Z consumers, the packaging is especially important (as one from team Taggstar said to me “you have to look at it for a month”) and opening the door becomes part of a daily ritual to be shared on social media. These young shoppers are likely to research hard before making their choice. Social proof messaging that draws attention to best sellers, or highlights customer ratings, can help everyone make an informed decision. 

The same is true for the advent calendar’s close relation – the beauty box, a subscription service that sends you a selection of beauty goodies every month or whenever you specify. Like getting a Christmas present every month, it’s a great way for trying out new names, different colours or formulations without too much expense or waste. Glossybox (whose advent calendar is still on sale) and Birchbox are perhaps the best known but there are plenty of newcomers on the block as well as retailers such as LookFantastic adding beauty boxes to their range. Again, real-time social proof can help consumers decide what’s best to buy by guiding them through the sign-up process and reassuring them that other people have already purchased this service successfully.

The ongoing situation is likely to continue to restrict our access to the traditional beauty counter experience with its personal consultations and sampling. Advent calendars and beauty boxes are two ways in which brands and retailers can fill the gap and offer their customers a pleasurable and entertaining way to discover new products. Social proof can play a valuable role in helping those customers buy with confidence.

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