A Higher Profile for Hanukkah at Retail

As Hanukkah began last evening (December 18, 2022), it seems like a logical time to look at the increased focus on Hanukkah products at retail this year, with expanded merchandise arrays at retailers from Target to Michaels. The trend includes a number of collaborations—although these remain relatively rare overall—often involving designers:

  • Judaica Standard Time, a design company and online boutique founded in 2020 that specializes in modern takes on Judaica, including menorahs, Shabbat candleholders, mezuzahs, and Hanukkah cards, has paired with artist Bari Ziperstein and her ceramics company Bzippy, ceramicist Debbie Carlos, artist Mike Paré, and musician Devendra Banhart, among others, for collections or select items.
  • Crate & Barrel partnered with Lucia Eames Archive, the company overseeing the work of the late Lucia Eames, daughter of Charles Eames and designer in her own right, known for her bold graphics and metalwork. The retailer brings back many of her rarely seen designs for a home and holiday collection, with products ranging from plates and serveware to table linens and quilts. One key piece is a contemporary-looking Lucia Menorah made of stainless steal, first designed for an exhibition at the Jewish Museum of San Francisco 30 years ago.
  • Target and its Opalhouse private label collaborated with designer Justina Blakeney’s Jungalow lifestyle brand, for a holiday collection with prices as low as $10. The assortment includes throw pillows, wooden Christmas trees, tableware, goblets, and more. Among the items are a woven dreidel garland, a blue-and-white dreidel-shaped pillow, and a menorah with a dove design. Target has an expanded selection of Hanukkah products this year in general, from pet toys to dishes to pillows, across its departments and brands.

While Jewish people represent less than 2.5% of the U.S. population, according to Pew Research, the number of families celebrating Hanukkah is larger—and growing. Many people celebrate alongside Christmas or other holidays due to marriage, for example. In addition, more Jewish families are inviting non-Jewish neighbors and friends to their Hanukkah dinners, which spurs the purchase of gifts for the hosts or their children. Some observers have also credited the increased presence of Hanukkah merchandise to the growing profile of Hanukkah on personal social media feeds, as people share their décor, holiday tables, or experiences making traditional holiday foods.

As with all collaborations, and consumer products in general, authenticity is important. As the presence of Hanukkah gifts expands, traditional and social media commentators are directing a more critical eye at the merchandise itself. While design-forward and tasteful products such as those listed here are available, many pundits are calling out the kitchiness of the products as a whole, at least in some retail settings. Others are noting the often offensive mingling of Hanukkah messaging with Christmas traditions (think Hanukkah gnomes), although some families that observe both Christian and Jewish traditions are looking for items such as Hanukkah ornaments for their Christmas tree.

It is worth noting that designers such as those mentioned in this post are not the only property owners that have entered the Hanukkah space. Target, for example, offers a Rugrats Hanukkah sweatshirt under license from Nickelodeon that has earned positive reviews; the 1990s children’s TV show is credited as the first to have had a Hanukkah episode.

A reminder that Raugust Communications’ monthly e-newsletter publishes tomorrow, December 20, 2022. The Licensing Topic of the Month examines lessons learned from holiday sales results for the season so far, while the Datapoint research spotlight looks at how licensors’ lifestyle collaboration strategies are changing over time. If you do not yet receive this free publication, you can subscribe here.

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate.

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