Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Divorce Registry???

You've heard of a wedding registry — well, this is a divorce registry.

Divorce can be liberating for some. But starting over can be emotionally and financially taxing, as well. One British department store chain hopes to ease the transition for the recently divorced by launching a specialized gift list that family and friends can use to help newly single loved ones stock up on things like sheets, towels and appliances for their new home.

"Obviously divorce is quite an expensive time with legal fees and it can be quite busy; there's lots of stuff to think about," says Ruth Attridge, spokeswoman for Debenhams department store, which has more than 150 outlets across Britain and Ireland. "So we thought well, we'll set up a divorce gift list and maybe it'll be a way for friends and family to help that person on their way a bit." She says several customers turned the company onto the idea last year when they inquired whether there were divorce gift lists similar to the ones the chain offers for weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Since the program was unveiled in January, calls have flooded in from curious prospective clients.

Setting up a divorce gift list is simple. Customers book an appointment at a store to pick the items they think they'll want in their new place, with or without some help from the staff (a divorce registry specialist, if you will). Afterward, the selections are posted online for family and friends to browse and buy. Based on market research, Debenhams expects most divorce gift list recipients to be men, for the simple fact that more women tend to remain in the marital home after a breakup, especially if the couple has children.

The British chain is believed to be the first to launch such a program. However, given the proclivity of Americans for divorce — recent statistics put the U.S. divorce rate at about 3.5 per 1,000 people, or roughly half the marriage rate — it may only be a matter of time before the concept makes the jump across the pond.

Products like greeting cards, sponge cakes and divorce-themed books are all the rage now in the U.S. and Europe. Christine Gallagher's book The Divorce Party Planner includes a "full party plan," with advice on gift ideas, games and appropriate divorce party music. But a divorce gift list isn't just about stocking the new bachelor (or bachelorette) pad with cool stuff; it's also about making a fresh start. And not having to dig out that makeshift milk crate coffee table from your old college days.

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