"They're selling like hotcakes,'' says Stuart Glover, assistant manager in Harrods' Christmas decorations department. "We sold 150 last week alone - kitsch is in."
But snowstorms have been around for years, so why the sudden fad? "They're a bit different these days," says Ashley Clayton, a shop assistant at Objects in York which sells a wide selection of snowstorms. "The ones we sell are more glitzy and kitsch. They've got gold glitter and sparkles instead of snow and have camp figures inside like cherubs, moons and dragons." Some are even ringed in baby pink fake marabou. "They used to be thought of as tacky souvenirs from Scarborough, but now they've been revamped - 'though they still retain that element of naffness that people liked in them in the first place."
Allen Strauss, who runs Christmas Angels, an all-year-round Christmas shop, also in York, agrees. "We've also experienced a fad for them recently. They seem to be selling all year round, not just at Christmas. They represent a bit of nostalgia - they're a childhood thing." His snowstorms are also of a high quality. "Ours are made from glass with ceramic or resin bases. They've gone up in quality and come down in price." Having said that, his most lavish is a gold plated musical snowstorm of a nativity scene retailing at pounds 45.
Karl Cook sells exquisitely made kitsch, camp and beautiful snowstorms filled with pure mineral water. "Oh, they're very much this year's thing," he says. "We've sold a huge amount. It's funny, because we were surprised at first at how popular they were, but then we even saw the classic plastic, tacky versions being snapped up elsewhere."
So which snowstorms are the most sought after? "The moving ones and the musical ones were the first to go," says Stuart Glover at Harrods. "It's the novelty factor that people want. We also have one of a teddy holding a Harrods globe, which tourists love."
"At the moment, our traditional, Christmas ones are selling best," says Allen Strauss. He warns that the moving versions can be troublesome. "We used to get moving ones which had a battery and would blow the snow around inside the glass dome all the time, but they used to break or get leakage." While everyone, from kids to grannies, is buying them, Strauss sees the occasional snowstorm fanatic who collects them and is looking for a specific item. "We had a man in the other day looking for a unicorn, but we didn't have one."
And they can't be made to order - in fact, they aren't made in this country at all any more. Karl Cook imports his quality models from Germany, but most snowstorms available here are made in Taiwan or China. "We'll import five or six hundred of a certain style from the Far East," says Stuart Glover. "The majority of ours are made in China," says Strauss. Prices vary according to size and complexity, anything from pounds 8 upwards to pounds 45.
"I've been collecting them for years," said one collector at Harrods decorations department. "I'm glad to hear they're fashionable now, because people have always joked about my collection. I knew one day people would see them as I do - rather beautiful."
Christmas Angels, 47 Low Petergate, York (O19O4 642454). Harrods Christmas department, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (0171-730 1234).
Objects, 21 Castlegate, Coppergate Centre, York (01904 647373).
For stockists of Karl Cook's snowstorms, call Environment on 01977 685101Reuse content