Why glam rocks this Christmas

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Forget discreet decorations, it's all about tinsel and sparkles. Best of all, it's easy to bring maximalism into our homes – without breaking the bank, says Kate Watson-Smyth

It's back and it's brighter than ever. This year you can put away those tasteful fir cones and hand-painted wooden baubles. There'll be no more trails of glass beads winding delicately round the tree. It's 2010 and it's time for tinsel.

Oh yes. Those glittering trails of gaudy metallic ribbon are where it's at for the decorations this year – along with glitzy reindeer and glittering foil paper chains. Maybe it's because of the economic gloom out there. But ever since the C word (that's crunch not Christmas) began floating round the airwaves, sales of tinsel have been on the up.

B&Q, one of the country's largest retailers of decorations says sales of tinsel have doubled over the last three years and Tesco said sales were up 20 per cent. In 2007, B&Q sold 510,000 packs of tinsel, rising to 900,000 packs the following year and 1.1 million last year. The store has increased stock to meet the expected demand this year.

"It's the ghost of Christmas past," said a spokeswoman from B&Q. It may have been tacky once, "but it's back with a vengeance now".

For years, designers, florists and "design experts" have shuddered at the mention of tinsel, preferring to extol the virtues of a tasteful white and silver theme, or the classic red and gold. It was all about real trees, handpainted wooden decorations and glass baubles, with tinsel banished to the children's bedrooms. But no more.

Yvonne Williams, seasonal assistant buyer at B&Q, described tinsel as the "ultimate frugal decoration", pointing out that it had always sold well during economic downturns. And Wendy Clarkson, the creative director of Christmas TimeUK, says the company has half a million metres of tinsel and is expecting to shift it all.

"Decorations that wouldn't have looked out of place 20 years ago are flying off the shelves as people rush to deck their halls without decreasing their bank balance."

Tinsel is believed to date back to the 1600s when it was made from strands of real silver, but this gave way to artifical replacements as it tarnished over time. Even if you don't want to choose tinsel, the signs are that brighter colours and retro designs are back in this year.

Paper decorations, with their kitsch shapes and low prices, are also big business. Look out for paper chains, bells and snowmen.

Jeremy Aves, owner of Deliver Me A Christmas Tree, says that the traditional reds and golds of the British Christmas are fading away.

"Purple and silver are [now] very strong themes and there's lots of bright green around too. The other trend is that instead of requesting lots of warm white lights, people want bright white to really stand out."

They also want glitter. ChristmasTimeUK and Paperchase report strong sales of gold and silver foil decorations and glittering reindeer and baubles to hang on the tree. "Retro is the way to go, with multicoloured disco balls and foil garlands," says Clarkson. "Sales of these have gone through the roof this year as customers are feeling the pinch."

The London stores have also taken this to heart. In a nod to the 1970s, Selfridges has a window display of giant fuzzy felt characters, and if you really want to see an explosion of tinsel then Harvey Nicks is the place to go. Janet Wardley, head of visual display, said: "We used lots of tinsel in this year's displays as we wanted to create a happy scheme. We wanted our windows to be fun and tinsel represents this. It's a real feel-good product – you can't help but be uplifted by the sight of its sparkly lengths and it brings out the child in all of us."

Clare Harris, the founder of Talking Tables, said: "Stuffy taste is over. This year is all about having fun at the table. Bejewelled purple crackers and red and white woodland animal motifs have been flying out of the store, as well as ice fountains, which are mini-indoor fireworks for popping in Christmas pudding, and tins of mini-sparklers. This year it's Christmas for the maximalists."

At John Lewis, Lisa Rutherford, buyer for seasonal events, said: "Sales of our most stylised and modern decorations [including ultra-tasteful baubles but not tinsel] are up. Our customers want a very stylish, fuss-free look this year."



Make your own

Wendy Clarkson, creative designer of ChristmasTimeUK, reports that sales of ribbon are high. "In recent years people have bought wooden decorations but this year they are being more thrifty and the best way to do that is to make your own decorations. "You can buy nearly two metres of gold spangle ribbon for £3.49 and make your own bows to tie on the tree and elsewhere. We have also been selling lots of 25m rolls of double-face satin ribbon for less than £10."And of course it's easy to set the children to making paper chains to festoon the house. Or collecting pine cones from the park and spraying them with glitter paint.For more ideas onmaking decorations visit makingyourown.co.uk or activityvillage.co.uk



Useful contacts

www.christmastimeuk.com; 01427 667270

www.delivermeachristmastree.com; 01732 522471,

www.talkingtables.co.uk; 020 7627 6767

B&Q www.diy.com; 0845 8500175

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