FOR years the novelty Christmas jumper was the one present everyone dreaded.
But retailers in Cheltenham said the garish woollen warmers were the latest must-have fashion item.
Adorned with anything from reindeer and snowflakes to Christmas trees, snowmen and Santa on his sleigh, the seasonal sweaters have been flying off the clothes rails in the town.
Supermarket Asda claimed it had sold over 10,000 festive knits and High Street fashion retailer New Look said that it sold one every minute during its busiest week.
Michaela Duffy, manager at Joules clothing store, in the Promenade, said they were one of their best-selling items this year.
"They have been selling really well," she said. "We have almost run out because demand has been so high.
"For some reason what everyone wants this year is a festive jumper.
"The used to be a bit of a joke item but now they are definitely back in."
A particular favourite among customers at the store has been a red and blue top with a robin on it. Another popular design is a blue and white top featuring a reindeer with antlers.
Michaela put the surge in popularity of the once-derided garments down to the festive cheer they bring.
"They just help to cheer everyone up," she added.
"They keep people warm in the cold weather and they put a smile on people's faces too."
Countless people have been seen sporting the woolly warmers in the town and many more will doubtless be donning them after opening their stockings on Christmas Day.
Echo rugby writer Will Wood, 30, from Tivoli, said he had hardly taken off his blue and white knit, which features a snowman, since his girlfriend gave it to him earlier this month.
"I'm delighted with it," he said.
"I think it's just very me. I have had a lot of compliments from people."
Ollie King, 20, a student in Cheltenham, was so taken with the trend he went online and bought his own.
"Mine's blue and white with reindeer on it," he said. "I just like the pattern.
"I think people are drawn to the quirkiness of them and don't care that much if they look a bit daft."