From chocolate to sex toys: How companies are cashing in on Advent calendars

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Christmas Advent calendars are evolving beyond chocolate. Companies now offer calendars with elaborate products, from craft beers to books to sex toys, employing a lucrative marketing strategy that not only attracts sales but also helps customers save money during the holiday season.

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No matter your tastes, there’s an Advent calendar out there for you: Lego sets, beauty products, fancy chocolates, liquor, tea, coffee, candles… Many businesses use the period leading up to Christmas to put out a range of fun or lavish calendars.

“The trend in retailers selling ‘posh’ advent calendars with hefty price tags has gone crazy in recent years,” consumer expert Sue Hayward told Euronews Business.

Brands are using this growing trend as a marketing tool to push their clients to discover a wider variety of products that they might normally ignore: Virtually no one would come out of a tea store with 25 different sorts of Earl Grey and chai, but acquiring such a range of flavours is made much more accessible by the small samples featured in the ever-diversifying Advent calendar business.

As the name suggests, the calendars are used to count down the days of Advent – the period of anticipation for the birth of Christ – in the run-up to Christmas, and as such they originally featured the nativity scene, Bible verses and prayers.

Over time, the calendars’ doors – opened each day of December until the 25th – evolved to contain a small piece of chocolate behind them, nowadays usually only costing a few euros in their more classic forms.

While the traditional chocolate calendar remains the popular option, it’s nigh impossible to scroll through social media in November and not be tempted by the more elaborate offerings, whose prices quickly climb into the double or triple digits.

‘Thinking outside the box’

“Some can cost way more than some people could afford to spend on a Christmas present,” Hayward said.

Luxury fashion brand Dior offers a €600 calendar, filled with beauty products and scented candles, and things can even get a little more risqué: Websites specialised in adult products also have pricey options, where couples or individuals get to discover sexy items throughout December.

While these unorthodox Advent gifts might seem way out of a customer’s usual price range, there’s often a great bargain hiding behind those 24 doors.

Hayward recommends “thinking outside the box” and seeing beyond what can seem expensive at first glance: “Some beauty versions actually house a haul of products worth way more than the calendar price tag. So if you buy one, open it up and give the goodies as Christmas presents, this could save you money on your shopping bill.”

Although a more luxurious Advent calendar might represent a hefty sum to pay at once, it allows clients to buy a selection of products for a fraction of their market value. 

For instance, Passage du Désir, a website that specialises in sex toys and lingerie, offers a couples’ Advent calendar for €189, when all the items bought separately would cost over €600.

‘Grown-ups want to treat themselves for Christmas too’

Indeed, Passage du Désir’s offering shows how just about any business can make use of the Advent calendar strategy. Many adult brands have jumped on the recent trend, primarily relying on social media figures to boost their sales.

Passage du Désir told Euronews Business they launched their first sexy Advent calendar four years ago, and reached out to influencers to promote it, sometimes even collaborating with them in choosing the items that would feature in the calendar.

“It introduces you to practices you might not otherwise have dared, like making love using handcuffs,” Passage du Désir founder Patrick Pruvot said. “Grown-ups want to treat themselves for Christmas too”.

Since launching their sexy calendar, November has become the brand’s biggest month in sales: “20% ahead of December, that was historically our strongest month of the year, given we’re a present-oriented business ” Pruvot said.

Boosting sales for retailers and savings for customers, the evolving world of Advent calendars not only reflects diverse consumer preferences but also showcases company creativity and innovation, adding a twist to the countdown to Christmas.

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