'Elf on the Shelf': How the brand evolved over 16 years

‘Elf on the Shelf’ holiday tradition takes off in the UK

Elf on the Shelf

Whether you like it or not, Elf on the Shelf has become a piece of Christmastime pop culture, and the brand has gone through several growth changes in the last 16 years.

It all started with Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell’s 2005 children’s picture book, "The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition," which was illustrated by Coë Steinwart. 

The mother-daughter duo wrote a rhyming book that told the tale of small scout elves watching families’ homes and reporting who has been naughty or good to Santa. As part of the lore, scout elves choose a different hiding place each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.

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Elf on the Shelf got its start with Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell’s 2005 children’s picture book, “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” which was illustrated by Coë Steinwart. (The Lumistella Company)

That hide-and-seek nature of the story played a direct role in the development of a smiley Elf on the Shelf Boy doll that matched the book’s illustrations. Dedicated owners of the doll began placing the festive character in different areas of their homes on a daily basis to keep up with the moving elf charade.

The doll-based holiday game became so popular that in 2008 the Elf on the Shelf Boy doll earned a Best Toy Award from Learning Express Toys – a specialty toy and game retailer.

Other awards and accolades for the doll and book came from iParenting Media, USA Book News and Creative Child that year. With continued marketing help from former QVC host Christa Pitts – Bell’s twin sister, the Elf on the Shelf brand has routinely been recognized by trade organizations and family groups.

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Elf on the Shelf has become a piece of Christmastime pop culture, and the brand has gone through several growth changes in the last 16 years. (The Lumistella Company)

By 2011, the Christmas scout elf got its own animated special on CBS titled "An Elf's Story: The Elf on the Shelf." A year later, the character made its Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade debut and has made an annual appearance ever since.

In the last decade, Elf on the Shelf has expanded its toy offerings with boy and girl elf scout dolls that are available in different skin tones, a line of pet dolls, a doll clothing line and a job-based line of Elf Mates. The brand has even added a "birthday tradition" that includes birthday countdowns and chair decorations.

The Elf on the Shelf parent company rebranded in August 2020 to The Lumistella Company, which considers itself a global intellectual property business that’s focused on Christmas lore. Bell and Pitts are leading the family-run business as co-CEOs.

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Best known for The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, Founders and Co-CEO’s, Christa Pitts and Chanda Bell announce a corporate rebrand to The Lumistella Company. (The Lumistella Company)

While the company has not publicized annual sale numbers in recent years, the brand is certainly a force to be reckoned with its ever-growing list of toys, Target exclusive items, multiple Netflix series and various other licensing deals with food and merchandise manufacturers.  

"As an agency with global reach committed to crafting precedent-setting deals and building new brands based on our ideas, interests and opportunities, CAA is an ideal fit for our future vision," Pitts said, in a company statement last year.

In the last decade, Elf on the Shelf has expanded its toy offerings with boy and girl elf scout dolls that are available in two skin tones, a line of pet dolls, a doll clothing line and a job-based line of Elf Mates. (The Lumistella Company)

This year alone, Elf on the Shelf has launched 17 new toys and has one new toy on the way. Five of its six "limited availability" items for 2021 are Target exclusives. It’s not immediately clear how Elf on the Shelf demand will play a role in current supply chain disruptions that are being seen in the toy industry.

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Fox Business reached out to The Lumistella Company for comment.

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