When it Comes to a Sweater, Ugly is Better

The ugly sweater… a Christmas tradition as old as Saint Nicholas himself.  Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true, but the fad of donning an ugly holiday-themed sweater at venues ranging from college parties to family gatherings (although maybe your Uncle Bill isn’t wearing that sweater ironically, but still) has become increasingly popular in recent years.  Now some naysayers might call into question such a drastically bold and controversial claim.  To those naysayers I shall back up my assertions with the rock solid data from Compete.  So without further ado let’s look at the graph below, which shows referral volumes for holiday-themed ugly sweater searches during the holiday seasons (November to December) of the past four years.

What we see here is a strong upward growth in November shoppers over the past four years, with the biggest year-over-year increase coming just last month.  On the other hand December took a big jump from 2008 to 2009, but has remained relatively stagnant from 2009 to 2010.  Even with this slight drop in mind, the aggregate number of ugly holiday sweater referrals has increased year over year since 2008.  Regardless of whether there is a spike of similar magnitude in December or not, it is clear that the ugly holiday sweater trend is growing in popularity.

The next interesting aspect of search referrals is exploring where people are actually referred to (i.e. what sites they go to after searching).  I explored the breakdown of the top 10 destination sites over the past three Decembers to see how the competitive landscape of these hot new items has developed.  The findings are particularly interesting especially when you ask yourself the question “where would I buy an absolutely horrendous sweater?”  I certainly don’t know (I would try Amazon, but only because they seem to sell literally everything).

What the graph below shows is that there are no major dominating forces within the online of ugly Christmas sweater retailers.  Sure, uglychristmassweaterparty.com had a brief rise in popularity back in ’09, but it was following by a steep drop the following year.  Furthermore, given the high volumes of overall referrals, a strikingly small number are aggregated to these top ten sites.  If I were to have shown an “other” category it would take up an average of 64.5% of the referrals!

So what are the major retailers thinking???  This untapped market could be the goldmine of growth the U.S. economy has been looking for!  Just think of it… not only could there be ugly Christmas sweaters, but ugly Hanukkah sweaters, and ugly Kwanzaa sweaters, the possibilities are only bounded by your imagination.  Looking at the list of top ten sites I can only pick out two that I’ve ever heard of (I mean really, who goes to rustyzipper.com regularly?).  My personal favorite, buttuglysweaters.com, just barely missed the top 10 coming in at #11.

It’s clear that most searchers don’t have any idea of where to go to buy ugly sweaters.  This is evident through the large array of destination sites that people end up at and by the fact that a number of the top ten sites have the term ugly sweater directly in the URL.  This type of web browsing brings me back to earlier days of the internet where people would actually search on askjeeves.com (who, let’s be honest, may have been a good butler, but couldn’t find a cow at a dairy farm) just because it has the word “ask” in the domain, making it seem like an obvious choice for searching.  I mean c’mon people, we’re better than that!

Yet, as much as I would like to rant about consumers’ URL selections, I cannot justifiably bestow the blame on the end user in this scenario.  The major players in the e-retail have yet to present a sufficient array of ugly sweaters to choose from at competitive price points and thus we, the people, are forced to shop at sites like myuglychristmassweater.com (no offense to the proprietor of myuglychristmassweater.com).   The ugly sweater industry could be could be the golden goose for the U.S economy and the market is ripe for the taking.  Given the upward trending year-over-year interest as well as the currently fragmented landscape any young entrepreneur would be a fool not to go in and start the next million… nay, billion dollar retailer selling quality made, competitively priced, terribly ugly sweaters.