A cult gift in the U.K. for the last half-decade, the beauty advent calendar and its surrounding craze have come to North America.
Including skin-care, makeup, fragrance and personal care brands, many premium beauty companies have been offering advent calendars this holiday season. Counting down the days until Christmas with one small gift to unbox per day, beauty advent calendars first went mainstream in the U.K. in 2017 before making their way across the pond.
“The advent calendar is always the most popular [product],” said Melanie Green, Kiehl’s vp of integrated communications, about the brand’s top holiday items. This year, the brand’s $98 limited-edition skin-care advent calendar sold out in October, which was even earlier than in previous years, she said. “It’s the most coveted gift; it sells out so quickly.”
The beauty gift advent calendar came about following the rise of the chocolate calendar, which was first launched by Cadbury in the U.K. in 1971 and popularized in the ’90s. Over the past half-decade, British brands and department stores have updated the advent calendar with a beauty theme, and international brands have quickly followed suit. Examples include Dr. Barbara Sturm’s $495 skin-care advent calendar and Diptyque’s $425 fragrance calendar, which is now sold out. Atelier Cologne offers a $108 fragrance discovery calendar, and Clarins sells a $124 calendar with hanging pouches of products.
The calendar’s popularity has increased rapidly, but some Brits are disgruntled about the trend — one particularly passionate Guardian op-ed called luxury advent calendars a sign of the “hideous mass commercialism of Christmas.” The author admitted that she enjoys the chocolate calendars, however.
L’Occitane launched two advent calendars in North America and four in the U.K. this year. When the brand first launched advent calendars in 2016, they “were definitely more of a U.K.-driven concept,” said Ashley Arbuckle, vp of brand marketing and wholesale at L’Occitane. But this year, “for North America, calendars were definitely our top-performing gift sets up until the Black Friday period” and remain “very strong even in December,” she said.
“What we saw this year is that the luxury calendar especially outperformed our plan, and it actually sold out in mid November, before we even began our Black Friday animation,” said Arbuckle. During the pandemic, the brand has seen a “shift toward people really wanting to treat themselves and to discover new products.”
“In these past few years, advent calendars have definitely become a holiday staple for the North American consumer, as well — and definitely not just for children,” said Arbuckle. “It’s the beauty lover’s version of chocolates.”
Advent calendars were especially popular in November, as consumers got their holiday shopping done earlier than ever to avoid carriers’ expected “shipageddon.”
Brands are betting that the appeal of opening a gift a day can extend beyond geographies where Christmas is widely celebrated. L’Occitane, for example, also launched a Travel Oriented Advent Calendar in September through its travel retail channels globally that features different travel destinations.
With multiple trial-size products, the calendars help with product discovery, which many brands are in need of this year, with store shopping behavior flatlined. “It’s not a huge commitment, and you get to try out a wide variety of beauty products,” said Arbuckle.