How Goop, Oprah and more adjusted their luxury gift guides for 2020, 'a holiday season unlike any other'

Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Anybody got an extra $295,000 for a gift this holiday season? If you did, you could buy a custom travel library, including books, furnishings and accent pieces, in a year where a lot of us are longing to move around the world. The recipient will travel by private plane to meet with the folks at publishing company Assouline to determine the perfect look.

(Photo: Neiman Marcus)
(Photo: Neiman Marcus)

It’s the marquee product on the 2020 list of Neiman Marcus’s fantasy gifts. The retailer is one of several companies that produces a gift guide, starring some outrageously expensive items, every year around this time. In 2020, as Americans struggle with unprecedented job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, at least a few of those lists look a little different.

For instance, at Neiman Marcus, a company that’s offered fantasy gifts for 61 years, big purchases such as the custom library come with a $10,000 donation to the charitable Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation, which is supporting the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Over at Goop’s annual “Ridiculous but Awesome” gift guide, shoppers can still buy a $1,995 Ouija board or a $4,519 arcade game console stacked with retro games (that’s already sold out!). But they’ll also find more practical ideas priced at $100 or less. Gwyneth Paltrow’s website is offering more products that can be used at home, such as puzzles and games, and fewer that require physical travel.

(Photo: Goop)
(Photo: Goop)
(Photo: Goop)
(Photo: Goop)
(Photo: Goop)
(Photo: Goop)

Adam Glassman, creative director for O, the Oprah Magazine, which annually unveils Oprah’s Favorite Things, said his team made adjustments, too. The 2020 list of 72 items features mostly Black-owned or -led companies and a range of price points, from a $3,500 Samsung television to $20 for a pair of homemade jams. In all, 34 items were priced under $50.

“This is a holiday season unlike any other. We really took into consideration how people are living this year due to the pandemic,” Glassman tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Everyone is spending more time than ever at home and so the list reflects that reality. Everything on this list is designed to be useful — and those have always been our marching orders from Oprah.”

(Photo: O, The Oprah Magazine)
(Photo: O, The Oprah Magazine)
(Photo: O, The Oprah Magazine)
(Photo: O, The Oprah Magazine)

The approach was a smart one. Allocadia, a marketing performance management company that researches shopping trends, said consumers are especially focused on utility in 2020 — and that’s if they’re giving gifts at all. According to a September survey of more than 1,000 adults to gauge expectations for the holidays, they found that more than 39 percent of those surveyed said they’d be saving money instead of buying gifts. More than half of respondents said they would be giving essentials, such as clothes, food or money.

Julia Stead, Allocadia’s chief marketing officer, tells Yahoo Entertainment that companies must be careful to avoid appearing “tone deaf” when so many people are hurting economically.

“At the same time,” she notes, “those guides can offer a sense of escapism or humor perhaps more than aspiration, so that’s another angle marketers can take that’s empathetic to the current economic uncertainty. If they’re positioned more as whimsy, humor and escapism, they may be better received.”

At O, where they’ve produced the gift guide for more than 20 years, it was important to the team to keep up the tradition. By now, it’s something people anticipate.

“We never considered not doing it,” Glassman says. “It’s such a pillar for our brand and especially after the year we’ve had, everyone could use some extra joy right now and something to look forward to as we head into the holiday season.”

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