Every trade show you go to, industry magazine you pick up or website you read will tell you what is 'on trend' - but 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 to grow our businesses by satisfying our customer’s needs.
Many trade shows have displays set up to highlight products being exhibited at the show that are good examples of the emerging trends, others host seminars by relevant experts who will talk through the trends for the sector but not necessarily relate it to any products at the show; some do both.
There are two stationery focused shows I attend each year Paperworld in Frankfurt and the Stationery Show in London.
A major draw at Paperworld in Frankfurt is the Trend Area which is renowned because it is well curated, and the printed material produced to support it is invaluable. 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.
This year the curators identified 3 trends:
1. Minimal and Excellent - described as ‘high-tech and craftsmanship combined to create a high quality, ultra-modern look’. The trend celebrates the hand-made, gender neutral luxury exemplified by the graphic wrap of Berlin-based Haferkorn & Sauerbrey, hand-stitched gold coloured notebooks from Favini and an anodised aluminium black fountain pen by Kaweco.
2. Spirit and Ambition - which incorporates a positive and very contemporary interpretation of current opportunities and future perspectives’. Products adhering to this trend feature 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.
3. Work and Challenge - defined as ‘an office trend which develops a relaxed atmosphere in which high tech and comfort are not mutually exclusive’. Designed for the workspace, this trend embraces flexible modules that create a space that feels more like home than an office, featuring earthy accents in natural materials like leather and felt. Mdf, once a no-no, is now a design feature, along with chipboard and melamine with desk accessories in birch, ash and maple.
For many of our customers these themes will feel extreme - the clever bit is how we use what we know about our shoppers to select products we know they will want to buy. For many of us as retail buyers we will need to bring our product selection back to a level that works for our customers. It may even mean we wait a while until these ideas become more ‘normal’.
For many retailers to stock products which reflect the latest colour palette or imagery may be too new for their customers and it may be that their customers need to see it around them for a season before they feel sufficiently familiar with the style to be comfortable enough with it to bring it into their home. So understanding trends and finding ‘on trend’ products only becomes useful if you know who your customers are and that they will appreciate the relevance of a particular trend.
This acceptance of colour and imagery applies to stationery too, but the balance between being on trend and functionality is also important for stationery users - the product must work - not just look nice. The British Retail Consortium figures for March show that overall retail spending was down -6% in March so with consumers spending less, this emphasises further the importance of functionality as 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. (The cover image on this blog is from Portico Designs' Mini Moderns range and is a great example of on trend, vibrant and functional).
In my next instalment on Stationery Trends later this week, I'll be sharing some great examples of 'on trend' stationery that may be of interest to your customers - from Diaries and Journalling products to Social Stationery and Calligraphy sets. So stay tuned!