"Cozy" is the buzzword of the retail industry this Christmas.
Last year it was the Instant Pot that sold out at many stores during the holiday season. This year retailers are stocking their shelves full of Sherpa sweatshirts and fluffy blankets.
"There is no doubt that the casualization trend has taken over the wardrobes of many Americans," The NPD Group analyst Maria Rugolo said. "But this holiday season we will see this trend in all of its furriness."
Department store chain Kohl's called out the trend when it said one of the most-searched terms on its website last holiday season was "cozy knits." This year, CEO Michelle Gass said the company expects fuzzy pajamas, among other cozy items, to be top sellers. Those items are also receiving prominent placement in Kohl's stores on key shopping days like Black Friday.
Target is another retailer putting items like pajamas and sweaters on sales for as low as $6 for Black Friday. It's also offering shoppers $10 or $20 gift cards when they spend $40 or $75 on clothing, respectively.
Bed Bath & Beyond has an entire page on its website dedicated to "cozy gifts" this holiday season, while Pottery Barn is offering deals on plush billows, robes and slippers. And "Oprah's Favorite Things" of 2018 featured on Amazon include PJ sets, fuzzy mittens, fur vests, a "hooded snuggle lounger" and "teddy pull-through scarf."
Pinterest, meanwhile, said searches for "teddy bear coats" — an item on many female shoppers' wish lists this year if they don't already have one in their closets — have surged more than 1,035 percent from a year ago.
Items like this have been gaining in popularity partially thanks to the Danish "hygge" concept going mainstream in the U.S. "Hygge," which can translate to mean simple and cozy, was on the Oxford Dictionaries' "word of the year" short-list in 2016. And according to this Scandinavian lifestyle, winter is the most "hygge" time of year, with hygge-focused gift guides still flooding the internet this holiday season.
There are other good reasons for retailers to be tapping into the cozy trend trend.
Sweatshirt sales have been growing at a double-digit percentage from a year ago in both dollars and units sold, NPD Group said. And sweaters — a category within apparel that's struggled in recent years — is starting to bounce back with "small gains" in sales.
"Besides the athleisure fashion trend, the ability to layer during unpredictable weather has been a strong selling point for sweatshirts and hoodies," Rugolo said.
Sleepwear has, meanwhile, always been a popularly gifted item during the holiday season. The NPD Group said roughly 50 percent of the category's dollars can be generated during the fourth quarter alone.
The chilly winter weather only reinforces the trend. This Thanksgiving week is forecast by Planalytics to be colder than last year, with the Northeastern portion of the country expected to be near record cold. That should bode well for companies hoping to sell more expensive coats and winter-weather gear.