There are many odd Christmas traditions that we take for granted. After all, chopping down a tree and placing it in your house, or hanging socks from the walls are pretty bizarre activities any other time of year. Yet, during the Christmas season, I guess we can all get a little nutty. That at least partially explains the ever-increasing popularity of one of newest and strangest Christmas traditions - the ugly Christmas sweater.
Ugly Christmas sweaters have been around for at least as long as kindly grandmothers with overflowing holiday cheer and less-than-subtle tastes, but in recent years, an entire culture and industry has grown out of the red and green-hued monstrosities. In fact, since 2011, the second or third Friday of December has been celebrated as National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, and as friends, family and co-workers celebrate with their own celebrations of the season's most garish apparel, retailers large and small have taken note.
Major retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), Macy's (M) and Nordstrom (JWN) have all stocked their shelves with purposefully tacky holiday sweaters, as well as DIY ugly sweater options, in a continuing race to the bottom of good taste. "I've never seen a product or category blow up like this," says Meri Barnes, product and business developer for a popular DIY ugly Christmas sweater kit, in an article at Bloomberg Business.
Ugly Sweaters, Merry Returns
While the sweaters are certainly ugly, the profits are anything but. Barnes report that last year, her company sold more than 35,000 kits, and that this year, she expects that number to rise to 400,000. Similarly, the Detroit-based online retailer UglyChristmasSweater.com has seen their business boom since launching in late 2012. CNN Money reports that since making $40,000 in sales their first year, revenue has soared 300% the following year, and 275% the year after that. They're expecting to sell $5.5 million worth of ugly sweaters during the 2015 season.
Or take Tipsy Elves, who took their ugly sweater business to Shark Tank and got a deal with investor Robert Herjavec for $100,000 for 10% of the company. Two years later, and the company is generating $10 million in sales.
So, even if you're sick to death of nauseating merriment draped over every holiday partygoer who crosses your path, you might as well down your eggnog and find yourself a light-up Rudolph wool-knit with bells sewn in. With the sort of industry growth seen in the ugly Christmas sweater field, don't expect the seasonal monstrosities to go away any time soon.