Trendspotting: How to buy homeware and gifts that will fly off the shelves

Trendspotting: How to buy homeware and gifts that will fly off the shelves

You’ve got the shop looking great and you know what your consumers like. But you want to make sure your stock is making the most out of the zeitgeist.

The question is: how do you judge what to buy without making a mistake? The conundrum of whether to follow trends, or to simply stick with what’s safe, is as old as the hills.

Here are some top tips for buying with the times in a way that won’t leave you with gimmicky pieces you’re unable to shift in six months’ time.

WHY DO THINGS GET TRENDY?

There’s a reason that trends emerge when they do. It isn’t just that all of a sudden everyone loves hot pink. The strings of politics, the economy, the news and other social factors converge and influence us. Identifying what these different mechanisms are is half the battle.

“When we think of trends we think of bloggers wearing a new style. But we need to look a bit higher than that. At politics, environmental factors, human rights, gender stereotyping,” says trend consultant Louise Healy. “OK, that might sound quite broad. But if you think about the things that are important to people now, you can work out what they might need.”

Think about what kinds of issues are being talked about in the pub, the supermarket, by your mum, your pals and see where the topics overlap - and how you, as a retailer, can respond.

For example, not gender-stereotyping too early is a buzz topic and you can see this in the colours that are now being recommended by retailers for nursery furniture or walls. People don’t just want pink for girls and blue for boys any more, so the shops are responding.

The way we live also impacts hugely on what we buy. Generation Rent means plenty of people interested in buying homeware are actually unable to decorate their own homes or need to be able to pack up and easily move house with anything they use to dress up their apartments.

“Because there has been a rise in the transience of the way we live people are keen on buying novelty objects that make us feel happy,” says Healy. Hence the proliferance of gold pineapples and cactus prints of the last couple of years.

PLANNING FOR BESTSELLERS

People buy when they have an emotional response. It isn’t just “Oh that would look excellent in my living room”, although that happens, admittedly.

If you can provide products with real provenance (i.e where/how they were made), display or tell consumers about any stories associated with them, or give a sense of how ethical, rare or intriguing it is, then you’re onto a winner.

“We are moving as a society towards buying things with heritage. That’s how you get people to engage emotionally. People buy things that mean something to them,” says Healy.

This can also help with PR coverage. If you have sourced a product that is newsworthy or surprising then you might be able to interest a newspaper, magazine or blog in featuring it. Consider products at each end of the scale: the lower cost, smaller items that are easier to shift; and the higher end, quality products that you don’t want to over-buy. If you’re new to trend-hunting then try some low value stuff to start with. But don’t be afraid to get bolder.

SCOURING THE NET

The best way of buying wisely is to be as informed as possible. It might sound obvious but if you can be all over social media, checking out Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, for what’s going on in the industry, the styles, patterns and tropes that are the most hash-tagged, then it’s going to give you an edge.

Be mindful particularly of how trends travel by following overseas social networks. Japan and the USA are particularly good indicators of trends that will travel to the UK and Europe.

There are also key sites you can follow regularly that do this and tend to aggregate insights into interesting analytical chunks. You don’t have to fork out loads for trend forecasting subscription services, either. Most of the biggest names in the industry have freely available blogs, such as WGSN’s Lifestyle & Interiors section, here (https://www.wgsn.com/blogs/lifestyle/lifestyle-interiors/); or LSN Global’s blog (https://www.lsnglobal.com/tag/Blog). You don’t have to buy all the Trend Bible reports, you can follow the website (https://www.trendbible.com) which is full of useful articles.

Be a blog lover: try Abigail Ahern’s blog (https://abigailahern.com) for seeing what the trendier, affluent section of urban design-enthusiasts are looking for. While Savvy Home blog is an inspiring, insight into what’s hot in interiors in the Antipodes (http://savvyhomeblog.com). Cassandra LaValle’s blog (http://www.cocokelley.com) is the site to visit for uber luxury and boutique trends.

THE INDUSTRY TALKS

Another top tip is to follow what’s going on at trade shows on social media. You might not have made it to Paris or London’s Olympia but you can see the pictures and get some idea of the buzz-worthy topics that emerged from the big shows like Spring Fair and Premier Vision. Spring Fair (Gift and Home) and Pure London (Fashion) have free trend presentations at the show.

Again, it’s worth following both trade shows via their websites eg. Premiere Vision’s spotlight on section (http://www.premierevision.com/en/categories/spotlight-on/), for an idea of the biggest areas for trendhunting.

Big brands such as Ikea and Farrow and Ball publish insights each season revealing the colours and trends they’re expecting to make a splash. Pantone publishes both a colour of the year and colours for each season.

Keep on top of these, borrow ideas, take what you like and think laterally. If cherry red furniture is everywhere, buy some smaller domestic items in a similarly arresting ruby lacquer.

AVOIDING A TURKEY

Knowing when a trend is so over is as important as identifying one that is on the horizon. Remember those gold pineapples? They’re so 2015.

This year there are a number of interesting trends on the horizon but not all of them will work for the mainstream consumer. Acid tropic colour palettes may be great for the trade shows and smaller objects, but be wary of larger pieces or anything so zingy it requires sunglasses.

If in doubt ask about. Get feedback from your friends, consumers, use social media yourself to try stuff out and gauge a response. Be confident but develop an eye for good design and good quality - without either of those things even the most zeitgeisty product will flop.

RULE OF THUMB

“You need to really like what you buy. Don’t buy something you don’t like just because you think people will want it. Be objective but also be passionate about what you sell,” says Healy.

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