A $20,000 Christmas display: the collectables people buy at Christmas Barn

Owners of the Christmas Barn, Neville and Leanne de Smet, with one of the Ditz Designs limited edition Santas. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Owners of the Christmas Barn, Neville and Leanne de Smet, with one of the Ditz Designs limited edition Santas. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

The festive season can be a serious business - just ask those who shop at Christmas Barn.

Customers have been known to spend up to $20,000 at the store. Other customers spend an average of $10,000 a year, every year all in the name of a good Christmas display.

But what exactly do people buy when they spend up big for Christmas?

"The ladies that did the big $20,000 spend, they brought a lot of big outdoor pieces," owner Leanne de Smet says from her store at Bredbo, 85km south of Canberra.

"They also brought an extraordinary amount of general tree decorations, table decorations - it was right across the board.

"Most of our true collectors - we've got a lot of Katherine's collectors - they love the really gorgeous pieces, something a little bit extra special and we tend to really do that well.

"We're not a $2 shop so we're not looking for the bottom end of the market. We're looking for something that is a quality piece that someone can keep forever and hand down to future generations."

Katherine's Collection is one the last Christmas design houses in America, with their decorations bringing in customers to Christmas Barn from as far as Paris and the United Kingdom. The design company does everything from tree decorations to life-sized Santa statues, but each item is considered to be collectable because of their detailed designs.

"[Katherine's] do everything in-house. They have their own sculptors who sculpt the different faces, they have their own dressmakers who do the different designs for the different outfits, and obviously, painters who do all the painted details," de Smet says.

Ditz Designs also have people coming to Christmas Barn, with the store stocking life-sized Santas. Each is part of a limited release of 500 and go for about $2200 each.

Everyone remembers what their grandparents did and what they had. It's special when people can start those traditions.

Leanne de Smet

"A lot of people get very carried away with Christmas because it makes people feel good," de Smet says.

"I think when things are a little bit tougher ... it makes people feel good so they do spend a little bit more.

"They maybe can't afford a new house but they can afford to buy a new Christmas tree. Maybe they don't buy a new car, they buy some Christmas to go around the house and it makes them feel good.

"And it's all collectable pieces that they'll have forever. If they're buying quality pieces they will have them forever."

For de Smet and her husband Neville, it's all about helping to create memories and traditions which can be passed down through the generations, as well as showing people what they can have, not what they have to have.

"Everyone remembers what their grandparents did and what they had. It's special when people can start those traditions," de Smet says.

"We've got people who use to shop with their parents when we were in Canberra - it starts making me feel really old - some of them their grandchildren are now shopping with us which is really scary.

"But they remember coming in with their parents and now they're coming back on their own and bringing their children. It's a tradition for them to come every year."

This story Hey, big spender: the makings of a $20,000 Christmas display first appeared on The Canberra Times.