How trendy should you be? | Allison Zisko

Are you struggling with what to do about trends?

It can be hard to decide when and how to incorporate a trend into a retail assortment or figure out how long a look will last. Some independent retailers would rather forgo trend altogether and focus solely on giving their customers what they think they want.

But consumers want trends. They expect it and your business may depend on it, so it is important to employ them strategically. Plus, trends are just plain fun.

HAT trend advisor Michelle Lamb, who co-hosted a retail panel discussion about trends and brand identity with me at Las Vegas Market last month, told me trend is all about encouraging consumers to be optimistic about the future, to have something positive to look forward to and get excited about. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at your 36th mushroom design at market or yet another Barbie pink product.

Consumers are more trend-conscious than they have ever been, Lamb noted, and want to see a measure of it where they shop. It’s up to the individual retailer to figure out a way to make those trends complement and enhance their carefully cultivated brand identity.

So, going back to the Barbie pink example, if you believe that pink has a future, Lamb said, then yes, you should do something with it. You could tone it down to a lighter shade of pink (like millennial pink, which consumers love). And if you think you want to go all-in with bright Barbie pink, consider a few accent pieces (a pillow, a table runner, a coaster) in that shade. The home décor world is the perfect place to play with trend.

Lamb advises retailers who are trying to figure out how to balance trend with their core assortment to devote 25% of their product line to trend. And that on-trend merchandise should represent different parts of the trend curve: some emerging looks, a few peak items, even pieces that are post-peak or in decline. That helps you mitigate risk, she said. (It’s like laddering your investments.)

In our August print issue, we asked all five of our trend advisors for their fall trend outlook and to give their opinion about several fashion or lifestyle movements that we think could impact home furnishings, from the popularity of denim and coastal cowgirl looks in fashion to vacation trends to the most exciting new sustainable materials on the market. We also asked their advice on the role price points play in trend, what is driving seasonal selling, and what they are most excited about for the fourth quarter. Consider it an essential part of your merchandising guide for the next few months.

One final word of advice: trends are more than just what’s pretty and what’s next, Lamb said. Consumer optimism is important, particularly in uncertain economic times, but trends are also a financial decision. It all comes down to what can sell. The right trend mix is golden.

See also:

Should we be identifying trends as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’?

Trend or fad? Patti Carpenter explains the difference

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