Gnomes have been an integral part of home décor, and popular culture in general, for decades, always an evergreen presence with waxing and waning popularity over time. Sales are currently in the midst of a long uptrend, with the latest resurgence ongoing since the mid-2010s. Google Trends, which measures interest based on the number of searches for a given subject, has seen a steady rise for gnomes since 2016, after more than a decade of declines. An especially prominent bump occurred at Christmas 2020, with 2021 trending at least as high as of the first week in December.
Gnomes are notable in all kinds of home décor, from holiday ornaments and decorations to welcome mats, cookie jars, napkin rings, bed sheets, and, of course, garden sculpture. But they also show up in other products, such as interactive games and dog sweaters. And, while Christmas is peak gnome season, they have gained traction year-round; Easter gnomes (often with bunny ears) have been trending since 2020, for example.
While marketers have produced a nearly unlimited choice of proprietary gnomes, licensed properties also have a presence, particularly in three areas:
- Licensed artwork highlighting gnomes. Some artists perennially include gnomes in their portfolios, while others add and subtract them as needed to stay on trend. Artist Jim Shore offers a full line of ceramic gnome figures with his long-time licensee Enesco. The late Rien Poortvliet, an artist represented by Orange Licensing, is best-known for his 1976 book Gnomes (Kabouters in his native language of Dutch), with its artwork being licensed for calendars and the like. Love Therapy is a brand from Italy created by Elio Fiorucci, which has a variety of licensed products and collaborations in place. Artists such as Robin Roderick (represented by MHS Licensing), Jo Taylor (Pink Light Studios), and Tim Bowers (Suzanne Cruise Creative Studios)—among many others—have created gnome-centric artwork for their licensees.
- Novelties, garden sculptures, ceramics, and the like that feature licensed properties outside of the world of art. One current example is FOCO’s broad line of garden gnomes inspired by NFL and other major league teams and colleges. Surreal Entertainment’s license with NBC/Universal for stationery and novelties connected to The Office includes an eight-inch Gnerd Gnome in the likeness of the character Dwayne. At the 2021 Masters golf tournament in Georgia, this year’s version of the Masters Patron Gnome was the most popular item in the on-site store, so much so that purchases had to be limited to one per customer. Back in the mid-2010s, at the start of the current upswing in interest, now-defunct licensee Thinkgeek offered a series of Star Trek: The Next Generation gnomes.
- Gnome-based properties from entertainment and other non-art sectors. This classification rises and falls depending on what entertainment productions or other properties are available for licensing at a given moment. Among the IPs that have maintained licensing programs at one time or another are Gnomeo & Juliet and its sequel/spin-off Sherlock Gnomes on the entertainment side and Travelocity’s gnome mascot on the corporate end of the spectrum.
Although it is hard to pin down an exact reason for the steady increase in gnomes’ popularity over the past five-plus years, the rise is often associated with the cottagecore trend, inspired by the look and feel of country cottages in England (where gnomes are sometimes referred to as gonks). It also should be noted that consumers, at least in the U.S., have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with gnomes; many find them “creepy,” are put off by their cottagecore vibe, or simply find them too ubiquitous. That said, there are obviously plenty of shoppers left who are still able to propel this trend forward, at least for now.