All kids want for Christmas is you (and llamas…)

And so this is Christmas. A mere 149 days before the big day, Selfridges opened its Christmas store. It’s a record for it to be open this early in the year, and yet for anyone in retail, Christmas in July is a long-established opportunity to lay out the festive store and identify key trends and gifts that will likely be under our trees come December.

Retailers are making their forecasts for this year’s key Christmas trends, and are naturally keen to know as far in advance how it’ll be different to last year. At Beano Studios, understanding kids is at the core of our business, so we thought we’d ask the kids themselves, and the results make for reassuring reading for parents and traditionalists. Over 40% of kids said their ‘best bit about Christmas’ is spending time with family, though a third admitted they’re in it for the presents (some things never change!).

Over a third of them know what they want already, and interestingly for the retail industry, it isn’t the latest tech. Whilst an iPhone was the top Christmas present received by kids in 2018, they don’t need the latest model as long as they can customise it. Retailers should be aware that for this generation of kids, personalisation and individuality seems to be more important than the latest shiny toy, as it helps them promote a sense of identity – both for themselves and to peers.

Diving deeper into trends for this Christmas, the Fortnite effect is strong in 2019, and llamas – which take the form of loot boxes in the game – are the toy of choice for 2019, whether that’s twerking llama toys or board game ‘Don’t Upset The Llama’.

One of the other big trends to be aware of is that retro toys are back in a big way. Monopoly remains the game kids enjoy playing with their families most over Christmas, Jenga is having something of a revival, and Hasbro launched six retro Star Wars figurines as they’d have appeared back in 1978. Even beyond retail, Old School Cool is making a comeback, with Home Alone, Mariah Carey and Wham! all appearing as top festive choices for kids.

And this poses an interesting challenge for retailers, whether at Christmas or otherwise – this generation of kids (Generation Alpha, born the same year as the iPad in 2010) are a unique blend of tech-empowered and tech-independent, using technology to enhance their real-world experiences without relying on it. They’re digital masters, beyond being digital natives like their millennial parents, but they’re also what we term ‘the new old-fashioneds’. Nearly half (47%) of Gen A still enjoy playing outside and a similar percentage often spend time away from tech and devices compared with just 29% of their Gen Z older siblings.

Cashless kids

It’s a generation who may rarely in their lifetime use cash, less likely to get £20 in an envelope from a lazy relative than a £20 digital gift card to spend on their console. And this may well mean they come to value experiences and services over ‘products’. Their experience of retailers is also likely to be more on their terms than current retailers have allowed for. You only have to look at their awareness of issues like sustainability, plastics and climate change to see that these kids have high expectations from businesses.

Our research earlier in the year found that they’ll particularly question retailers who reinforce outdated gender stereotypes, for example through unnecessarily gendered toys, or who aren’t acting responsibly on climate change. Given their growing influence on everything from holiday destination to the weekly shop, retailers who are helping make the world a better, more fun place will likely have a bright Christmas. Those that fall short may find Generation Alpha giving them a 'bah humbug' instead.