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BHETA Viewpoint from Will Jones

a man looking into a crystal ball for a trends forecast

Keeping on top of trends

Knowing what is going to be on trend with time enough to do anything commercially useful about it can be challenging. There are some good trend forecasting companies but hiring them is a serious investment and while doing just that clearly pays off for some of the bigger suppliers and retailers, it’s not an option for everyone.

Another possibility – accessing published research reports on consumer attitudes and spending habits – is certainly helpful, but it’s likely to prove expensive if it is to make a real contribution, just because the sort of data freely available online is usually a year or two out of date – for obvious commercial reasons. So, for the majority who do not have research budgets large enough to cover these kinds of opportunities, here are a few thoughts on what can be done instead to make sure of being at least somewhat forewarned in the trends game.

An excellent starting point is to investigate the market intelligence available via trade associations. Trade associations may well have collective agreements with major research companies and be able to supply members with vital data and trend information at a discount – in some cases without any cost at all. As an example, the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA) provides members with up to date data and trend information from the likes of GlobalData, GfK, Fediyma, Key Note and Experian market research at a significant discount. GfK and leading trend forecaster, Scarlet Opus also speak regularly at BHETA events.

Exhibitions are also a great source of trend information. Clearly an opportunity to look at new products, these events usually have much else to offer. One of the key lessons is to adopt the widest possible perspective – seeking out design and lifestyle trends, of course, but also shopping, merchandising and display trends, so whether visiting as a supplier or a retailer, don’t just wander round without a plan. There is much more to be gained. Check out the seminar programmes and themed tours, focussing on up and coming or ‘hot’ consumer topics and how best to work with them – whether that’s British manufacture or environmental appeal.

Exclusively Housewares and Exclusively Electrical were packed with trend predictions and the latest trading intelligence. It’s all vital knowledge as retail shifts towards online and the experience economy, demanding flexible operating models with customer data and integrated ‘tech’ solutions such as social media and mobile apps to drive customer engagement and loyalty. The seminar programme included EPOS data from GfK, tips and advice for using social media to drive footfall and promote offline shopping experiences, Scarlet Opus, highlighting the trends in home and housewares sector over the next couple of years; and advice on where to advertise online.

It’s also worth noting that exhibitions primarily aimed at one sector may – in trend terms – be just as useful for suppliers and retailers in other sectors. Glee for example will be valuable for interiors and housewares suppliers and retailers as much as garden players. By the same token Exclusively Housewares / Exclusively Electrical had plenty of information to offer to the garden and DIY sectors. To illustrate just what sort of insights can be accessed, here a few illustrations of current trends that might be worth some thought.

Outdoor rooms

Alfresco dining has been around for a while, but the coming years will see this upping its significance. No longer just about serving food outside, this is now about the creation of fully resourced and styled outdoor rooms – lighting, flooring, heating, shelter, furnishing, and fully functional outdoor kitchen creation. This includes refrigeration, food preparation areas, fully fledged ovens, worktops, integrated sinks and drainage as well as the more obvious functional / decorative features such as seating, firepits and pizza ovens. The opportunities for housewares, tableware and accessories to accompany and enhance the ‘built’ elements are obvious; as are the opportunities for collaboration and cross-promotion with other players in the market. It all begs the question: where does kitchen and tableware stop; and garden and home begin? And vice versa!

Smart home

According to Mintel’s 2018 report on consumer trends, attitudes and spending habits for the home, Smart connected devices are right now moving from being the territory of the so-called ‘early adopters’ and into the mainstream. Almost half of consumers who are not already in the market are now interested in purchasing and of those, 26% said that could be persuaded to buy from the source which offered a free installation or set up and demo service. Not only is this important for the home security and heating / energy players, this is also an interesting opportunity in the small domestic appliance sector. Mintel’s facts and figures fit in with what Scarlet Opus calls the ‘Eco 2.0’ trend which says it’s all about clever, easily adjustable controls, so as not to waste resources.

Simplification and clarity

Scarlet Opus refers to this trend simply as ‘Clarity’ and this is very much about visual impact. It recognises a need for simplification and personal choice. Think relaxing colours such as neutrals, pastels and sun-bleached. But this is not only about colours. Products should be easy to move inside or outside and consumers also need to believe that they can choose and vary product finishes in terms of both colour and texture. In other words, the purely decorative aspects of products should be able to be changed to suit changing décor, changing location – or even changing mood!

The concept of different looks in one product very much ties in to the need for more inventive instore – or online – presentation and display with opportunities to try out and visualise how different looks might work in the home. This all ties in with the fusion of tech with instore experience, which is having such a big impact on successful retail.

In short, a knowledge of trends in the marketplace – from many different perspectives – is vital and it’s well worth investing some time in gaining critical insights.

It may very well be that a ‘common sense’ approach to the obvious sales opportunities – like a warm summer and a Royal Wedding – will pay dividends as well, but something tells me that these sorts of events cannot be relied upon every year!

For more information, contact BHETA member services on 0121 237 1130.

Source: BHETA
August 2018


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