1 in 4 Belgians worry about their Saint Nicholas budget

1 in 4 Belgians worry about their Saint Nicholas budget

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The purchasing power of Belgians is increasingly strained. Now that the Saint Nicholas period is approaching, the holy man’s available budget is coming under intense scrutiny. A study commissioned by Dreamland and conducted by iVOX1 shows that 1 in 4 Belgians are worried about their Saint Nicholas budget. More than 1 in 2 parents even consider it a recurring challenge to actually buy the exact presents their children ask for. That is why 71 % of Belgian parents are considering buying promotions, buying earlier or buying fewer or cheaper gifts. Market leader Dreamland is ready to respond to this changing buying behaviour and is intent on giving every child a magical Saint Nicholas this year too by focusing on competitive prices, an early-bird campaign, budget-friendly buying tips and Saint Nicholas experience.

Saint Nicholas budget under pressure

Almost 9 in 10 Belgian children currently make a wish list for Saint Nicholas. If you know that 68 % of parents buy more than one present around 6 December, you’ll understand that Saint Nicholas inevitably comes at a cost. Although the budget parents are willing to spend on Saint Nicholas has not changed significantly compared to 20192, 1 in 5 Belgians do feel that they are worse off financially. The social difference also remains huge: more than 30 % of people who are financially struggling, have experienced a decrease in their budget. ​

Story image

It’s only logical that 1 in 4 Belgians are worried about their Saint Nicholas budget in the current climate, where purchasing power is under serious pressure. People who are generally less well off (44 %) worry the most.

Changing buying behaviour: earlier and online

Regardless of whether they are worried about the Saint Nicholas budget or not, 71 % of Belgian parents are looking for ways to save money wherever they can. The most popular method by far is looking out even more for promotions and discounts (37 %), while buying gifts earlier is also a frequently mentioned solution (29 %). Veerle De Witte, managing director of Dreamland confirms that this is a smart move, because you keep the options open and can take advantage of early-bird actions: "We notice that our customers are increasingly sensitive to the price and timing of their Saint Nicholas shopping. With Saint Nicholas, Christmas and the end of the year, December is always an expensive month. Customers are looking for ways to spread their spending and therefore want to start their Saint Nicholas purchases earlier. Dreamland is responding to this trend with an early-bird campaign that will run from ​ 28 October to 6 November. During that period, parents cannot only enjoy great discounts, but will also have plenty to choose from in our product range."

Story image

Some parents also report buying fewer (12%) or cheaper (11%) gifts than usual. This proportion even rises to a quarter when we look at parents who struggle to make ends meet every month. Finally, 12 % of parents do feel the need to save money but do not yet know how. Besides buying earlier and taking advantage of promotions, Dreamland has some other tips to share with them: "For example, customers can buy products from our high-quality private label brand Dreamland, available at very competitive prices compared to A-brands. It is definitely an option to buy a lesser-known, and cheaper, brand which offers a different variant of the gift on your child's list. You can also buy second-hand toys, or buy several small, cheaper gifts for your child instead of one big present. Also make sure that your child provides enough options on their list, so that, as a parent, you have enough to choose from in the very wide range on offer during the Saint Nicholas shopping period," Veerle De Witte adds as a tip.

A second notable change in consumer behaviour is the shift to online Saint Nicholas shopping. More than 1 in 4 parents plan to buy a large part or even all of their presents online. In Flanders, with 1 in 3 parents, this share is even a lot higher. "The online market in Belgium is on the rise. We have definitely noticed this trend at Dreamland too," says Veerle De Witte. "We have been focusing on the synergy between our 48 physical shops and our web shop for some years now. Since the Covid period, we are receiving 30 % more visitors via our web shop and our online sales continue to grow structurally even today." ​

Story image


Open ended play, sustainable and inclusive toys

38 % of children give 'fun to play with' as the main reason why they add a particular item to their Saint Nicholas list. The influence of social media and their friends, as well as the popularity of certain toys also play a big role for children. Toys clearly have to be fun, as well as trendy. Parents, on the other hand, mainly consider the price of the toy when buying Saint Nicholas gifts. 36 % indicate that price is the main factor that makes them decide whether or not to add an item to their shopping basket. The price argument is closely followed by 30 % of parents who consider it especially important that the toy suits their child's age. 'Fun to play with' comes third among parents (26 %), just ahead of 'lasts a long time' (22 %) and 'durable' (19 %).

Story image

The fact that 1 in 5 parents say sustainability is important is a trend that Dreamland has also seen emerge for a number of years. Veerle De Witte: "Not only the sustainable materials used to make toys have become increasingly important. We also see more toy manufacturers making educational toys which incorporate the social responsibility aspect of playing. For example, toys which focus on inclusivity and diversity are seriously trending at the moment. The aim is for every child to feel seen, to belong and for children to learn about the diversity of our society from an early age. This pursuit ranges from dolls with different skin colours, more boy dolls, to Barbies with physical disabilities. A social trend that we can only encourage at Dreamland and which we also follow in our product range."

Another notable newcomer in toy land is open ended play. This is a form of playing without rules or a clearly defined goal. It allows children to discover their own game where they can give free rein to their imagination and creativity. Find out which toys will be in Saint Nicholas' bags most often this year and 7 matching toy trends in this press release.

Experience as well as gifts

Although the vast majority of parents buy presents for Saint Nicholas, this children's day involves more than just presents. No less than 84 % of Belgians attach great importance to the 'experience' during the Saint Nicholas period. The younger the children, the more important the experience. This can range from singing Saint Nicholas songs together, decorating the house, watching Saint Nicholas' arrival, but also a 1-on-1 meeting with Saint Nicholas is high on the wish list. As many as 4 in 10 parents are making plans for their child to meet Saint Nicholas. For those struggling to make ends meet, this number even increases to 55 %. ​

Story image

Veerle De Witte agrees on the importance of meetings with Saint Nicholas: "We too are actively committed to the Saint Nicholas experience. Meetings with Saint Nicholas via Dreamland is something we offer every year, without obligation. There is no obligation to buy, it is an investment on our part. We believe every child should have access to that magical Saint Nicholas experience. All families can register for a meeting with Saint Nicholas on a separate platform. There is an option for a video call with Saint Nicholas. During a personal conversation, children can ask him anything they want, something that proved to be very popular in recent years. In our physical shops, we can organise live meetings with Saint Nicholas again. In total, this will allow us to give almost 17,000 little kids a unique Saint Nicholas experience."

Overview of experience actions at Dreamland:

  • Video calls with Saint Nicholas and Pete on 5, 19 and 26 November and 3 December.
  • Saint Nicholas will visit Dreamland shops on 26 October, 16 and 23 November.
  • During autumn break, Dreamland is organising a play week in the shops where children will be able to try out the gifts Dreamland expects to be in high demand from Saint Nicholas.
  • Colruyt Group Academy will organise workshops "Crafting with Pete" on 16 November and "Saint Nicholas fun with your little rascal" on Wednesday and Saturday in November.
  • Facebook live on 26 November where Saint Nicholas and Pete answer fun questions from children.

1 Online survey conducted by consumer research agency iVOX on behalf of Dreamland between 23 and 30 August 2022 among 1,000 Belgian parents who give Saint Nicholas gifts to their children, representative in terms of gender, age and region.

2 In 2019, iVOX also conducted an online survey of 1,000 Belgian parents on behalf of Dreamland. Some questions in the 2022 survey were worded identically to those in 2019, to allow for comparison.