Successful retailers need to forecast the fashions that their consumers will be seeking. Even top designers routinely perform surveys prior to designing their seasonal lines and the large retailers consult forecasting specialists prior to purchasing stock for their stores. So how does the independent boutique retailer gain access to valuable industry information and trend predictors?
Above all observing what’s going on in the weekly celebrity glossy’s and monthly fashion magazines, will give you an upfront view of the new names in design, what consumers will be shopping for and where the trends are headed.
Consumer spending is powerfully influenced by the media but tempered by the economy so to find out what consumers are actually buying it is advisable to make frequent visits to busy similar retailers and local shopping malls. Take time wherever possible to chat with sales assistants. They are in the frontline and this gives them a unique perspective of consumer’s needs and what the customer is seeking. Other extremely rich sources of information will be found online in the magazine fashion forums, Elle, Vogue, InStyle etc have very active fashion consumer forums. These are useful indicators for finding out what is being purchased and the buzz on upcoming styles.
In the past, US retailers looked to European retailers for market trends. Today, more US retailers are finding inspiration closer to home. There is a wealth of undiscovered local designers in our own back yard who are acquiring a dedicated following. With little detective work you can find these rising stars and establish a relationship that will be mutually beneficial.
Other important ways to anticipate the trends is to subscribe to industry trade publications like Accessories magazine, Apparel News and WWD. These publications are essential especially if you are a boutique in a small town and do not plan to attend industry trade shows. These magazines also now have websites which give up-to-date trend reports.
Today, between each marked fashion trend, we experience new adaptations on the fashion standards and especially routine-retro-revivals. Currently this is taking the form of spandex, leggings, 80’s fashion and the neo-preppie look. Wayfarer sunglasses as popularized by movies such as “The Blues Brothers” and “Risky Business” have returned (but in larger sizes and bolder colors) and even some of biggest names of the 80’s and 90’s fashion modeling scene are enjoying a career revival with major fashion and cosmetic companies featuring them in ad campaigns.
The best way to anticipate new fashion trends is to seek relevant visual input wherever you can – in vintage stores, flea markets and in the street. There are also an abundance of fashion blogs and online showcases discussing what the locals in major cities are wearing, thse are an invaluable resources. Chief amongst these are The Satorialist, Streetfashion.net, London Street Fashion (ftp2.dns-systems.net) and styleandthecity.com.
Whether you are an established retailer or a current boutique owner, ongoing research and trend watching is a vital function of your business if you are to evolve and succeed. Spotting trends or even setting trends will be achieved by keenly observing the market, paying attention to street trends and knowing your industry. As ever ‘knowledge is power’ in this case it is the power you can leverage into strong sales!
Tim Baldwin is the President of Subastral Inc. a retail display supplier to the fashion apparel industry.
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