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Consumption | The inflation of Christmas gifts for 50 years

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Do you have the impression that children aged 0 to 17 received more gifts and more expensive products than in your day? Expert opinions and shopping in catalogs of the past.

Does Barbie cost more?

To get an idea of ​​the value of gifts over the decades, Press compared the prices of classic gifts from Eaton, Consumer Distribution, Sears, Walmart, The Bay catalogs and flyers, and special editions of games and toys of the magazine Protect yourself over the past 40 years.

“The price of the Barbie has not changed much since 1998,” notes Danielle Charbonneau, who was a specialist in games and toys for the magazine. Protect yourself for 20 years. But once you have the doll, you’re hooked and want the other products that go with the Barbie. And it’s when you buy the house, the car, and the camper that businesses make money. There has been a meteoric increase in the supply of Barbie’s environment over the years. ”

“The price of Monopoly has not changed much,” observes Laurent Côté, buyer at Club toys for 20 years. However, before, there was only one Monopoly. Now the offer changes regularly. Every movie that comes out has its Monopoly, and they don’t cost the same. ”

The two experts also point out that the popularity of board games is on the rise in Quebec. In addition to putting them under the tree, small formats are offered to guests instead of a bottle of wine, for example.

With 25 years of expertise in the field, Laurent Côté can say without hesitation that 2021 is a year when so-called classic toys have sold the most. “Doll, Barbie, Lego, board games, Paw Patrol, Pokémon,” he lists. Lego remains number 1, it is the most requested company. ”


By consulting the catalogs of the 1970s and 1980s, we notice with surprise that the prices of Lego are more or less the same as in 2021. Which therefore made them an expensive product for the time. “The prices have not changed, but the boxes have shrunk,” specifies Laurent Côté. It is the same phenomenon of reduflation as in food. ”

“Today, as soon as you buy Lego derivatives, like Dora and Paw Patrol, there are fewer parts compared to the regular product”, adds Danielle Charbonneau, who notes in passing that the offer of Christmas gifts in General has exploded since films produced even more merchandise and in all price ranges.

If the price of board games started to rise a few years ago, strong competition has changed the situation. “A game where you accumulate objects, for example, there are a lot of them. A company that releases a new game like this can’t sell it for $ 80 if the others are selling it for $ 50. ”

More more expensive gifts

The orange has not been considered a gift for a long time now. “In 2021, we dare to ask for a cell phone and we will have it,” says sociologist and professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa Diane Pacom. Children are no longer satisfied with worthless gifts that made 1950s children happy. ”

Children have entered the cycle of consumption like all other social groups, explains the sociologist over the phone. “From a very young age, they know the value of goods,” she emphasizes.

Here are some avenues that explain this inflation …

By text to grandpa and grandma

“Before, it was the parents who came to buy the children’s gifts. Now, we see the grandparents arriving in the stores with the ideas that their grandchildren sent them by text ”, notes Laurent Côté, buyer for 20 years at Club toys.

Baby boomer grandparents have significantly more money than their parents born during or before the war. They also had fewer children. The gift budget has swelled and the gifts have multiplied.

“There are a lot of separations, divorces, blended families and the children have several duets of grandparents, uncles and aunts who offer them gifts”, notes Danielle Charbonneau, who has been a specialist in games and toys for the magazine Protect yourself for 20 years.

“Because of divorces, working mothers and other social phenomena, parents have never been so guilty about children. They compensate by giving children objects which, from an economic point of view, are in an almost luxury category, ”adds sociologist Diane Pacom.

The overbidding by social networks

While there have always been more affluent parents who offered expensive downhill skiing equipment and electronic games, the circle to whom children could brag about was small. “Thirty years ago, we called our girlfriend on the phone or we met the neighbors on a snowbank and at the ice rink to discuss the gifts received,” notes Danielle Charbonneau. Nowadays, young people post what they have received on social networks. “Everyone knows what everyone is buying on the networks. Which inevitably creates an escalation, she explains, like: ‟Me, I received an electric bike for Christmas and you, what did you receive? “”

From orange to consoles … to cellphones

In the wish list of children and adolescents, cell phones and tablets have now replaced video game consoles. “It is more young adults who are waiting for the new consoles,” notes Laurent Côté, of Club toys. Kids and teens will watch TikTok, play Roblox, and play video games on their cellphones much more than on a video game console. ”

“Tablets are like pencils and erasers for children, because they use them at school,” adds Danielle Charbonneau.

From apprentice carpenter to….

“Toys and games have always been agents that prepare the child to become the adult that his society will ask him to be,” recalls Diane Pacom.

While we offered dolls that prepared girls for their future role as mothers and plastic tools to apprentice carpenters, children are now being prepared to become citizens of virtual society, analyzes the sociologist.

“The cell phone has become an object that is an extension of the human being,” she explains. Children do not live apart from this virtual world which is conquering the planet, it is their world, which makes them attracted to the screen more than to other toys ”, concludes- she.



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