The holidays are a critical time for retailers. Brands from every corner of the industry pulled out all the stops this year in hopes of performing well this season. And while we saw some great products, others were about as frightful as the weather outside.
From fast-food-branded holiday sweaters to Advent calendars costing more than $100 grand, these are the moments we loved to hate this year.
Neiman Marcus' guide to a merry (and absurd) holiday season
While Adobe Analytics said Black Friday sales reached $7.4 billion, the National Retail Federation's projected $730.7 billion for the entire holiday season signals we've still got more dough to spend. But if you're just sick of spending money at this point, Neiman Marcus is here to make us all feel a little better about not draining our bank accounts on absurd gifts in the last few days of the season.
The department store released its annual holiday gift guide — The Christmas Book. We compiled a list of the top three products from it that absolutely nobody's heart desires.
For that high-class friend of yours who already has everything, we present you with a champagne-filled vending machine. What we would describe as a statement piece, the Moët & Chandon Champagne Vending Machine ($35,000) provides not only the perfect conversation starter, but also a constant stream of bubbles sure to bring the holiday cheer all season long.
Only thing is: You'll have to pay extra to stock it. Helpfully, the product description points this lucky buyer to "any licensed retailer" to purchase the appropriately branded Moët & Chandon 187ml bottles for the machine.
Perhaps because some have argued the current political environment is a throwback to an earlier time, Neiman decided to send shoppers back to the '80s. The Retro Mini Bling Boombox w/ LED Dancing Speaker, which for $80 could be considered a steal on this list, has Bluetooth capabilities to ensure everyone is rocking around the Christmas tree.
And really, so what if it looks like something you could get on sale at Claire's?
If you've still got cash burning a hole in your pocket and are looking for something really ridiculous to spend it on, Neiman's got you covered. The Pharrell Fashion Mood Flatware Set by Christofle is the finishing touch to complete any dinner party. No one needs a $2,900 egg full of forks and knives, but imagine the look on your guests' faces when you bring out this subpar Easter decoration. Truly priceless.
And because we behaved (for the most part) and landed ourselves on the nice list, Neiman blessed us with yet another "Fantasy Gift Guide" this year. It's got everything from limited edition Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, which was inspired (and designed) by Daniel Craig's 007 (appropriately priced at $700,007) to $70,000 custom dog houses.
There's a lot to say about that last point, but we'll let Neiman Marcus do the talking: "Does your dog feel most at home in a Cape Cod beach cottage or a Brooklyn brownstone? Maybe his style's more midcentury modern with a traditional twist."
Say what you will about Neiman, but they ask all the right questions.
Goop takes over the holidays
Christmas is just two days away, so for those consumers that haven't yet finished their shopping, Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop is here to save the day and give you all the inspiration you need before making that last frantic run to the mall. And in true Goop fashion, the gift guide includes the most unusual and unnecessary gifts imaginable.
The website organized the various lists in categories, such as "The Kid's Gift Guide," "The Wellness Junkie's Gift Guide," "Gifts for the One Who Has Everything" and "The Ridiculous but Awesome Gift Guide."
And let's just say Gwyneth is out here doing the Lord's work. How else would we know where to find the $250 brass fire extinguisher our best friend has been begging us for??
Or perhaps, an automatic joint roller ($130) or dehydrated bar of caviar ($99-$149.99) is more your style? The lists include a variety of product categories to be sure consumers can find the perfect gift for their brothers-in-law, sisters, co-workers, even feline friends.
But maybe some people you're shopping for really got into the Marie Kondo craze and refuse anything that doesn't spark joy. Don't fret. Marie Kondo, herself, is here to save the day.
The organizing consultant-turned TV celebrity in November launched an e-commerce site in a bid to out-Goop Goop.
Products on the website, appropriately named KonMari, range from a crystal and tuning fork set to a tissue box cover to a bag of charcoal (though, we can't confirm the recipient will be thrilled to receive a bag of coal for the holidays). She's even selling a stick on her website, you know, if that's the sort of thing that sparks joy for you.
Nothing makes more sense for a person whose mantra is eliminating unnecessary items from your home than trying to turn a profit on said items.
Tiffany wraps a $112K bow around the holiday season
It's been a year for Tiffany. In November, the jeweler was acquired by LVMH (you know, the conglomerate that owns everything), for $16.2 billion. And on top of that, Tiffany this holiday season released a product to give us 24 days of absurdity.
The storied jeweler is selling an Advent calendar filled with everything you would expect from Tiffany. While several of the items are jewelry pieces like necklaces and bracelets, many slots are reserved for products from the retailer's "Everyday Objects" collection like a sterling silver paper cup and a clothespin. There's truly no better way to celebrate Advent — the period where Christians prepare for the anniversary of Christ's birth — than by unwrapping a sterling silver harmonica.
The best part? It costs a cool $112,000. Whoever said money can't buy happiness was never gifted this exorbitant treasure chest of junk. But if you wanted to get your hands on one of these this holiday season, we hope you acted fast. Tiffany only made four.
Imagine buying your boo the $112,000 Tiffany Advent Calendar just to find that it's filled only with the hella expensive Tiffany paper clips pic.twitter.com/9XaMHduP2L— Heidi (@heidnicolee) October 28, 2019
But for consumers looking for something to help ease the stress that comes with the holidays, retailers did their part to make sure the whole season is a holly, jolly good time.
Earlier in the season, Instagrammer @costco_doesitagain posted that the warehouse club retailer is selling a beer Advent calendar for $59.99. From brand Kalea, the "Brewer's Advent Calendar" features 24 different cans of German beer that come from "privately-owned breweries all over Germany."
But the fun doesn't stop there. Aldi last month brought back its popular boozy Advent calendars. From beer to wine to cheese, the products are sure to bring holiday cheer all season long.
Kroger is also selling its own wine-filled product for consumers to enjoy throughout the month of December. The product retails for $80 and contains 24 mini bottles of wine, PopSugar reports. Though, mirroring moves from the other retailers, supplies for Kroger's Advent calendar are limited.
While it may be too late to buy an Advent calendar for its intended use, wine not get one anyway and start it in January? As long as there's Christmas cheer, it's basically the same thing, right? May the boozy holiday odds be ever in your favor.
How Harrods stole Christmas
The holiday season is rooted in tradition. For some, that means going Black Friday shopping with the family in the early hours of dawn. Or perhaps baking treats that fill the house with the sweetest smells. But for some, especially young children, the season isn't complete without a trip to a department store to tell the big man in red what they've been wishing for all year long.
Unfortunately, British department store Harrods is throwing cold water all over those traditions.
The department store this year partnered with Swarovski to bring customers "The Secret Forest Grotto." The Grotto debuted to the public in November and will stay open through Christmas Eve. However, the event is invite-only and invitations are hard to come by. In order to be eligible for Grotto access, consumers must have achieved level Green 2 status in Harrods' rewards program by Aug. 26. This means one must have spent, at minimum, 2,000 pounds ($2,607.22, as of Dec. 19). Yes, two grand to see a bearded man in a costume.
In case you have a spare two grand https://t.co/htKjybytYg— Christmas in the UK (@uk_xmas) November 9, 2019
But to children, he's not just a man in a red suit. Whether he's Santa or Father Christmas or some other variation, he represents the true spirit of Christmas. He gives children something to believe in, something to look forward to and someone to trust.
But for Harrods, the sweetest Christmas carol of all is the jingle of cold, hard cash.
"We care hugely about making a visit to the Grotto as magical as possible. We aim to deliver each and every customer who visits the Grotto a truly tailored experience which includes the chance to discuss their personal Christmas wishes with Father Christmas," the company said in a statement on its site. "Unfortunately, this means we cannot accommodate walk-ins."
The Grotto experience costs 20 pounds per child, and guests without a child attending will be asked to pay 20 pounds total. The experience includes an "immersive journey through the Grotto and a private audience with Father Christmas." But kids better soak up every second of that experience because they are only allotted 10 minutes with the big guy. Including the roughly $2,600 customers had to spend to get access, that trip to the grotto amounts to a minimum of around $260 a minute. Merry Christmas to absolutely no one, from Harrods.
The department store will present each child with a gift, though it doesn't disclose what such gifts entail. "We have been sworn to secrecy by the Elves who are currently making the gifts for all the children, so we are unable to disclose what the gift will be," the company said.
For the sake of Harrods, let's hope those gifts are of equal value to a down payment on a car.
The year of branded holiday sweaters
It just doesn't quite feel like the most wonderful time of the year until Tipsy Elves releases a new collection of ridiculous holiday sweaters. And because champagne is such a hot product this time of year (even companies that don't sell the beverage are trying to get in on the trend), what better pairing is there than an André-Tipsy Elves collaboration?
To coincide with the release of André's new 375mL cans of Brut and Brut Rosé, the two companies joined forces to sell champagne-inspired products, which include everything from onesies to a holiday sweater with a stocking on the front big enough to hold a full-sized bottle of André bubbles.
However, if touting the logo of an alcohol brand across your chest or sporting a champagne fanny pack (which, of course, has a compartment for the new André Brut cans) isn't your jam, don't worry. The companies are also selling accessories for the star of the show, like this festive holiday sweater that slips right over a bottle and comes complete with a bottle-top-sized knit hat.
And a wrap-up of the biggest pop culture moments of the year, and possibly the decade, wouldn't be complete without a nod to the chicken sandwich wars. And a major player in that, obviously, was the Popeyes chicken sandwich.
When the fast-food restaurant introduced the sandwich in August, people went nuts. The company sold out of the product in just two weeks — a supply that it expected to last three months. And when it returned in November, Popeyes reportedly ran out of sandwiches at some restaurants for a second time, Bloomberg reported.
Seriously, this sandwich has grown to have a cult-like following. So to capitalize on the product's success, the company announced earlier this month that it is selling a limited-edition "Popeyes Ugly Christmas Sweater" just in time for the holidays.
The most devoted fans can purchase the sweater online for $44.95, and considering someone tried to sell the actual sandwich on eBay for $7,000 after it sold out, this is a real steal.
This is far from the first time a fast-food restaurant has tried to get into the holiday spirit. Last year, Taco Bell released sweaters inspired by Friendsgiving, and this year Skyline Chili, Red Lobster and Whattaburger, among others, have announced their own holiday-themed apparel.
But unfortunately for consumers, the Popeyes chicken sandwich sweater sold out faster than the product it was based on.