Poland is the third-largest exporter of Christmas decorations in the world. Sales of premium glass baubles have boomed in particular, with the hand-crafted items appearing in luxury department stores around the world as well as in the White House and French presidential palace.
Polish exports of Christmas decorations stood at €70 million in 2020, behind only China – which has 80% of the world market – and the Netherlands, according to analysis by the Polish Economic Institute (PIE).
The main markets for Polish decorations are Germany and the US, followed by France, Slovakia, Austria and the Netherlands. Poland’s exports in 2020 were, however, down 13% from €80.4 million in 2019, according to data from Statistics Poland (GUS), a state agency.
“We are also observing a decline in exports of these articles this year…due to lower demand for non-glass Christmas decorations,” Łukasz Ambroziak, a trade analyst at PIE, told Notes from Poland. In the first nine months of 2021, Poland sold 36.3% fewer decorations abroad than in the same period last year.
However, while Poland may be exporting fewer decorations overall, its sales of premium glass baubles increased by 18% in the first nine months of this year relative to the same period in 2020, according to PIE.
Of Poland’s estimated 320 decorations producers, growing numbers are specialising in hand-painted glass baubles, reports Interia. These are sold in high-end department stores around the world, including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason in London, Le Bon Marché in Paris, and Bloomingdales in New York.
Several of Poland’s products have also decked the trees of world leaders, including at the White House, the European Parliament as well as the French presidential palace.
“When we started in 1995, the Polish bauble industry was already speeding ahead,” said Wojciech Słodyczka, head of the board of Silverado, a bauble producer from Józefów near Warsaw. His company sends 90% of its products to the US.
“Although there are baubles that we sell to wholesalers for one dollar, we focus primarily on luxury products,” he told Interia. While the technology of blowing glass baubles is simple, decorating a single one by hand can take several days.
Słodyczka says his products have appeared at the White House and Kennedy Centre in the US, and been added to the private collections of Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, John Travolta, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Taylor and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The producers also says that there are fashions for specific designs. “The 2000s saw a trend for Fabergé eggs…[and] our clients wanted similar decorations on Christmas trees,” said Słodyczka. Next, he says, there was a “cooking craze” as customers ordered baubles shaped like food and cakes.
“Soon after that, rustic and garden-related threads appeared – and so there were ornaments in the shape of fruits, vegetables, greenhouses, hens, roosters, and Santa Clauses dressed as a gardener,” he told Interia.
Since the start of the pandemic, baubles have also adapted. Silverado has produced ornaments showing Santa in a mask and well as hanging syringes.
Maria Wilczek is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She is a regular writer for The Times, The Economist and Al Jazeera English, and has also featured in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, The Spectator and Gazeta Wyborcza.