This year, Santa's wearing blue

Forget Lapland. In Gwent 120 outsize elves toil to keep the country, and the world, in unorthodox festive decor.

While Britain is preoccupied by summer drought, Santa's helpers are working flat-out to meet deadlines for the Christmas market. Nowhere is elfin energy more concentrated than in Gwent, where Festive Productions, the UK market leader in the Christmas decorations business, has an almost doubled workforce of nearly 120 on round-the-clock shifts.

From June to October, pressure is intense to fulfil orders for trees, lights, garlands and door and table decorations, contributing to a retail market estimated at pounds 145m in Britain alone. The British family spends an average of between pounds 60 and pounds 100 on Christmas decorations and gift wrap, even post-recession, every season.

From its Newport factory, Festive Productions also exports to New Caledonia, the Middle East and west Africa. Last year, the firm dispatched pounds 100,000- worth of aerosol snow to Iceland and herds of 18in plastic "topiary" reindeer to Scandinavia.

Exports account for 15 per cent of the company's pounds 8m turnover from 2,000 separate product lines. Obversely, glass decorations from eastern Europe and more than a million hand-picked, graded and fumigated five-inch fir cones from China - alone costing pounds 50,000 - are imported for a range of door wreaths, wall and table decorations. Tree lights and others are imported mainly from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The factory floor resembles a May festival as women seemingly perform variations on a Maypole dance, straining at arm's length from twirling, glinting garlands. They are twisting mixed-colour "spiral" designs, a new line for Sainsbury's Homebase stores. Festive Productions supplies 95 per cent of major retailers at any one time, many of which specify their own lines.

All Christmas garlands are born in tubs the size of steel drums resembling fairground candy-floss machines into which wide PVC ribbons are fed through cutters, then spun at high speed. Five minutes produces 20 metres of garland. Traditional reds, silvers and golds outsell all else, but co-ordinated themed room schemes such as the Balmoral range - tartan, tartan and more tartan - are increasingly popular, not just here but in the Middle East. Instead of a red-clad Santa, the Czarina range - popular in eastern Europe - features an exotic bearded patriarchal figure transmuted by a kind of Russian Orthodox conversion, resplendent in midnight blue satin.

Nigerians like decorations on a grand scale and opt for shopping mall- sized garlands with maximum glitter to burnish in the sun. They would no doubt warm to Festive Productions' new line in musical automated figures, such as Santas on skis. They're 24in high, but the retail price of pounds 99.99 may leave Nigerian revellers cold at a time when hard currency is still restricted.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor