Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

by : 
Kim Perkins
April 1, 2013

Question: Sometimes i see articles touting the next big trends, and I wonder where they get their information. Is there a way to predict trends in retail and discover the next hot product?

Answer: We would all like to find the next great product and order it ahead of the curve so it is already on our shelves when customers want it. One way to be informed about what is “coming down the pike” is to read fashion, home décor, and trade magazines to see what colors and themes are being discussed. Many trends begin in large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and New York and then find their way to the rest of the country, sometimes a year or more later. So, it helps to be abreast of what is happening in movies and fashion for clues.

When spotting trends, even small ones can be helpful and often the information is already at your fingertips. For example, as you prepare your purchasing plan for jewelry for the next holiday season, take a look at the past year for clues. Did customers buy more expensive pieces? Were they buying for themselves as well as for gifts? Did earrings under $25 fly out the door and those over $40 just sit? As you ask these questions and analyze the data, it’s likely a pattern will emerge. And by projecting how that pattern will affect your business going forward, you are identifying a trend.

At the start of this last recession, we saw customers who used to shop often and purchase merchandise for themselves cut back and just purchase gifts for others. Instead of a “two for them and one for me” pattern, we began to see “one for them and one for me.” Eventually, at the height of tough times, “one for me” was forgotten altogether. During the past year, that has been slowly changing. People are spending a bit more and slipping in a purchase for themselves once in a while. I see this trend increasing gradually as the economy strengthens. This may be more a wave than a trend, but it helps to know this is happening to plan for future inventory purchases.

Sometimes spotting a future trend is as simple as identifying “what do I want that I can’t find?” Most likely, someone else wants it, too. Pay attention to colors you wish you could find or items that would help you in your life but are unavailable. And then watch as they “magically” appear next year. This way, you will begin to trust your own trendsetting instincts. The ideal place in retail is to be a trendsetter rather than a trendspotter!

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to