Retail trends and how to spot them


Retailers who spot a trend early can seize the initiative. But backing a fad could lose them money and reputation.


Every retailer wants to be ahead of the pack: prepared to capitalise on the trend without too
much being invested and having to wait for others to catch up. But what’s the diff erence between a trend and a fad? Trend experts interviewed for this feature agree that trends are things that solve human
problems while fads are more diffi cult to define.

International marketer Seth Godin says a fad is popular, simply because it’s popular. ‘A fad gives
us momentary joy, and part of the joy comes in knowing that it’s momentary. We enjoy a fad because
our peers are into it as well.’ 

Vicki Loomes, senior trend analyst at Trendwatching, reflects that view. ‘A fad is how you follow a
trend. Connecting people through social media is a trend. The dating website, Tinder, could be said to be
a fad because it’s simply a fun way of doing it.’ 

Spotting trends
When it comes to spotting a trend, it’s easy to get carried away by technology, says Loomes. ‘There’s
a diff erence between human trends and technology trends. A consumer trend is the human need that a
technology trend is addressing.’ 

Trendspotting is an inexact science. There’s no mathematical formula and any observant person who’s
willing to ask questions could be a trendspotter. Cate Trotter runs Insider Trends, a retail consultancy which organises retail safaris around cities such as London, Berlin and New York for those wanting to experience the next wave of retail trends.

‘In global cities such as these we can often spot trends at the seed stage, before they spread out across the world,’ she says. ‘In Berlin we saw a store in someone’s house. Obviously we’re not predicting that lots of homeowners will be opening up stores, but I could see a small trend of supper clubs in houses, pop-up restaurants – a counter trend where independent small retail businesses become more sought-after than the huge multinational retailers.

Such a counter-trend is evident in technology too. ‘The more time we spend on digital devices, the more
there is a desire to go back to analogue,’ adds Trotter.

There has been a huge upsurge in the sale of vinyl records, and not just in independent stores. Urban
Outfi tters are selling them, and the world’s top recording artists are releasing their albums on vinyl.
‘It’s never going to be mainstream,’ says Trotter, ‘but vinyl is trending because of digital’. 

Do millennials drive trends?
The population of Europe is around 740 million, of whom it’s thought around one-third are under the
age of 30. Are Millennials more likely to be the source of new trends because they’ve got more time and dis-posable income to engage with new ideas?

Trendwatching’s Loomes says it’s not that simple. ‘We spot trends by looking at what brands are doing,
and harnessing a network of trendspotters across the globe. They’ll submit cool things in their area, and we ask them to focus on really local new trends that we wouldn’t necessarily come across, then we’ll match it against our 16 megatrends framework.

‘Each megatrend has a sub-trend and when we find innovations that don’t seem to sit in any of these, we’ll set them aside and start looking for patterns and trends within them,’ she adds. ‘When we think we’ve identified a few things that tie together, we’ll send them back out to our spotter network and ask them whether they’ve seen anything like that, or whether they disagree.’

It’s about connecting the dots, she says and the more they see, the better the judgment call as to whether
they’ve spotted a new trend or not. At the end of 2015, Trendwatching identified a trend they called ‘informal information’, whereby consumers wanted to engage with brands more easily rather than wait on
a helpline for hours. Chatbox, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp messaging have all grown fast. ‘Such systems or apps such as Chatbox won’t change lives, but they do help people live their lives easier,’ she says. 

Generation X
Forget Millennials, they’re now maturing and are likely to have mortgages, commitments and less
spending power. Generation X are those to target, according to Victoria Buchanan, visual trends researcher
at trends consultancy The Future Laboratory. Those born between 1994-2002 are the true digital
natives who cannot remember the world without internet, smartphones and social media. And there
could be around 1 billion Generation Ds in the world. 

Generation X are also not to be forgotten, says Buchanan. They outnumber Millennials and have the
highest retail expenditure. Empty nesters with cash to spend, but they often feel forgotten. 

US-based Trendhunter, another trendspotting company, invites anyone to submit new ideas or things
they’ve spotted around the globe. The ‘hunters’ send their ideas directly through the website. ‘We have
170,000 trend hunters across the world,’ says head of research Shelby Walsh.

‘One of the things we predicted early was the importance of technology integration into everyday life: the
fitbit is on your phone, but we were really early in predicting wearables. There are lots of predictive technologies coming out now that we were talking about a couple of years’ ago.’

3D printing will start to have a presence
3D printing has been talked about for years, but now it’s closer to becoming a shopper reality. It’s eco-friendly (virtually no waste), as items are made to order, and has lower transport costs as manufacturing is done on the premises.

3D printing is no longer just about larger goods such as household wares etc. Shoes, handbags and now even fashion can be produced to order. US manufacturing innovator Gerber has teamed up with the Blender Foundation, a Dutch not-for-profi t organisation that supports open-source 3D content creation. 

Blender software is behind Gerber’s 3D technology which it is using to enable garment design, and for which it worked with fashion designer Danit Peleg. Peleg used Gerber’s AccuMark 3D powered by Blender to support visualisation, animation and simulation in the creation of a fi ve-piece line of 3D printed garments. 

Peleg, 28, is an Israeli fashion designer based in Tel Aviv who graduated from Israeli Fashion School Shenkar.  For her graduate collection in 2015, she was the first to design and 3D print an entire ready-to-wear fashion collection, produced entirely at home. Her collection and the potential impact that printing clothes could have on the fashion industry has caught the attention of millions around the globe.

For the Rio 2016 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, Peleg used her 3D printing technique to design and print a dress for snowboarder Amy Purdy, a double-leg amputee who performed a samba solo.