Its amazing to think that we're mid-way through April 2018 already and the trends for the year are quite clear: both design trends and the socio-economic trends that influence what we want to buy. As retailers and suppliers our role is to decide which trends are relevant to our customers and how we can tap in to this to maximize the opportunity it presents for us...
It has been interesting to see how the Trade Show organisers have done the same, thinking about retail buyers as their customers: which exhibitors we want to see, who will have new relevant products for our customers, and what it is that we want to know about trends, services etc - and how they can help us access useful information and content which will in turn encourage us to visit their shows.
Understanding trends only becomes useful if you know who your customers are and therefore appreciate the relevance of a trend to those same customers. Just as retailers are working hard to find ways of getting customers in to their stores or online, so are the show organisers as they compete for a retailer’s precious time out of their businesses. Additional content that adds value to a show visit is of particular interest for smaller businesses who cannot afford to bring in specialist help or justify expensive magazine subscriptions.
Top Drawer is aimed at buyers looking for creative, lifestyle products and as such it is important that any additional content appeals to that audience. They are doing a great job in tapping in to the extras their visitors need to justify their time there by creating curated trails, offering trend display areas, hosting seminars like Paperfest and showing the award winners of the PaperAwards adjacent to their relevant product areas where the target retailers can find them easily, creating maximum impact for all involved.
Paperworld is renowned for it's TrendShow in the foyer between Halls 5.1 and 6.1, and I have been known to visit the show almost exclusively for the insights they have collated. The Trend Show curates all the leading trends in stationery and presents them in imaginative lifestyle displays. Each item shows the exhibitor name and stand number, so the time-pressed visitor can quickly draw up a shortlist of products and exhibitors they can’t afford to miss.
As well as providing clear trends to help buyers keep their stock exciting and fresh, the area offers fantastic ideas for retailers who want to display stock imaginatively. For example, I liked the way Mark’s ‘Dot On’ sheets and sticker dots were used to create a striking piece of art: the retailer wins because it looks good in a display, the customer benefits because they see what they can do with the products in store.
Paperworld identified and labelled three key trends this year. ‘Minimal + Excellent’ celebrates the hand-made, gender neutral luxury exemplified by the graphic wrap of Berlin-based Haferkorn & Sauerbrey, the hand-stitched gold coloured notebooks from Favini and an anodised aluminium black fountain pen by Kaweco.
The colour palette was zingy and upbeat in the trend Paperworld called ‘Spirit + Ambition’, featuring primary colours, monochrome graffiti and lots of hand-lettered designs and sketches. Although not a new product, artist David Shrigley’s linocut designs for Flying Tiger Copenhagen, with social and ethical messages, illustrate the trend perfectly.
In the workspace trend they called ‘Work + Challenge’, flexible modules that create a space that feels more like home than an office feature earthy accents in natural materials like leather and felt. Mdf, once a no-no, is now a design feature, along with chipboard and melamine. Desk accessories are made from birch, ash and maple.
The uncertainty around Brexit, increasing inflation reducing disposable incomes and potential job insecurity are all are fueling the need for people to keep in touch, making sure they remember special occasions and generally stay connected. At Top Drawer there was a lot of social stationery being shown with a real focus on using lovely substrates and plenty of florals including these lovely notecards in the Esme Winter’s range which is the result of a collaboration with artist Lucy Augé...
Also, a new birthday calendar adding to Laura Stoddart’s Blooms range features a beautiful bloom...
Meanwhile at Spring Fair I saw some lovely bags of invitations from Dotty about Paper; the organza bags made the product look very special and reasonably priced too.
We know in terms of the socio-economic trends that customers are likely to be spending less and that anything they are buying needs to be functional. There is little room for gratuitous products that are being bought for the sake of it, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull and Portico Designs new Mini Moderns range is a good example of this with an innovative set of products carrying wonderful designs.
Museums and Galleries have also recognised that customers are going to want their stationery to be special and they have introduced a range using designs from Roger Gilmore.
Products linked to helping you record your spending, thoughtfulness and goals, organisation and use of time - all aimed at helping redress our work life balance - will be important this year. Graphique have several new ranges of stationery which includes some stylish journals and an organisational system called Franklin Covey, an American system widely used as a management tool which has some useful features including daily, weekly and monthly planning pages as well as space for flexible scheduling, prioritising, important dates and notes, and monthly calendars for planning ahead.
Licensing is still very evident in the stationery market and there is something for everyone from the stylized fun of I Love Birds from Artfile to the elegant Sara Miller range from Blueprint both adding strong new designs into the stationery mix this spring.
In terms of design and cover materials, glitter certainly seems to be in with some stunning product being shown by Go Stationery, Graphique and Dotty About Paper. It would be fair to say that Go Stationery’s range called All That Glitters is well named!
While we are seeing some changes in emphasis in the stationery on offer now - humour, happiness and laughing still play an important part and the Wiffley Waffley range from Really Good will certainly brighten up many displays and have us laughing as we get tongue tied trying to say it.