A Look Ahead
What to expect in specialty retail for 2013
The word trends” is, well, trendy, but I don’t really know that the specialty retail industry is especially prone to following of-the-moment movements. While there are certain colors and styles that will permeate the market from time to time, the prevailing thought is that to be successful, specialty retailers have to stay increasingly selective toward offering items that create a unique experience for the consumer.
Recent years of economic uncertainly have created customers who are purchasing smarter, looking for eco-friendly and/or American-made options and are examining products with a more critical eye when making purchases. In other words, consistent quality and service is something that’s always in style.
With that said, Museums & More tapped into some industry experts to get their take on what retailers should look for in 2013.
Have you noticed a change in consumer spending habits?
Kristi Curl Mandsager
Consumers are spending more on quality products and are willing to spend a little bit more on an item that is better quality and made in the U.S.A.
Joan Baker Designs
I see a surge in “buying with a conscience.” Consumers are nudged towards a product by questions about whether it’s earth-friendly, fair trade or if it supports the local community. When money is tight, people feel good about accomplishing more with their spending than just taking home something for themselves.
Squire Boone Village
Vintage and vintage-inspired items, particularly among younger buyers, are popular, although this fascination with “something old” crosses generational and cultural lines. Vintage products speak of a past time, often touching on special memories. When a product elicits that kind of visceral response, its perceived value increases.
The Orb Factory
Consumers are looking to stretch their dollar while still purchasing high quality products. Instead of buying five or six toys that will be discarded, they are looking to buy just one or two that will last. This means creating kits that have a secondary function once completed.
Customers still want fun fashion but are looking for good value when purchasing an item, and it’s all about comfort, soft fabrics and bright colors — especially neons.
Texas Leather Mfg.
Customers are buying with retail display savvy in mind. More and more we see buyers with their list of items, colors and what they are looking for to go with what they already have in their store to make it look fresh.
When shopping at a trade show, go back through and look for the items that are going to “wow” your customer and have them saying, “I didn’t know you had this or that!”” Remember these shows are there to help you find something new to keep your buyers coming back. They trust you to inspire them, which is why they’re in your store.
What new products, themes and ideas you will be introducing?
One of the biggest trends for 2013, primarily in the craft industry, is looking beyond the typical age demographics. Parents are realizing how important a creative environment is for preschoolers. Our pre-school kits incorporate craft materials like glitter, fuzzy tiles and pompoms. When completed, they actually look like the product shown on the box, which boosts their self-esteem.
Last year we launched PlushCraft— colorful, no-sew, fabric art that we will be expanding this year. We’ve modernized and simplified the classic concept of rug hooking, creating a fun and no-mess line of craft kits for kids. We’re also introducing some new SparkleUps, repositionable stickers that children decorate with sparkling jewels, and we’ve had great success with the tween market.
In addition, the DIY movement is everywhere. We want to tap into that by offering craft kits that help them express their unique styles, and we’re expanding our popular Stick’n Style line that focuses on accessories and wearable art for girls.
An item experiencing an upsurge in sales is candles. They can create almost any kind of atmosphere and a new focus on attractive packaging has made candles more than just a pretty scent; they have become an essential element in home décor.
After two years in development, we’ve recently introduced four lines of 100 percent soybean wax candles — Spa Lights, Home Scents, Fireside Lights and Rainforest Lights. Soybean wax has many advantages, including the fact that it is toxin-free and burns cleans. Wax made from soybeans burns much slower as well, making it more cost-effective.
Reminding consumers that soybeans are a renewable, biodegradable resource is an important selling point. Using soybean oil supports American farmers and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
One thing we’ve done at Joan Baker is come out with Zing Artwear, a nontoxic, eco-friendly accessory line. Most products like this contain many harmful chemicals. In our proprietary formula, these chemicals have been removed but you still have a unique piece that lies nicely on the skin and looks and feels good.
We are expanding our current product offerings to include more functional and price-conscious items and introducing new products that use smarter materials to produce lower price points, yet still maintain the inherent quality Momadic strives for in all products.
Bi-metal or “two-tone” jewelry takes advantage of the lower, more stable costs of alternative metals, including bronze or copper. When combined with metals such as silver or gold-filled, this style of jewelry allows your customers to enjoy a souvenir with all the beauty of precious metals at a very attractive price point.
Lightweight jewelry is another versatile way to make the most of smaller amounts of silver and gold. Think delicate bracelets and chains, or the sophistication of filigree. All are cost-effective options that visitors to your store will want in multiple pieces.
How do you feel social media will impact the industry?
Consumers are more open to hearing about our products on social media because we can present visuals and ideas in a conversational manner that they appreciate and relate to, making them more likely to make a purchase. Likewise, their direct feedback helps us to improve our products to better meet consumer needs, which we strive to do each and every year.
Because we are a manufacturer and not a retailer, we don’t get a ton of first-hand experience with individual customers. That’s why I’m on Facebook and Twitter every day. Social media allows me to instantly share news, new products, pictures, cool blog posts and more. It’s creating a dialogue and relationship with our consumers.
But receiving information is just as important as sharing it. I want to listen to what our customers think, see their photos and be available to answer any questions. It’s always amazing when someone leaves a comment on our wall to let us know what they liked, or even what they didn’t. Our fans always have great feedback and I’m so happy that social media allows me to hear them.
The key is to engage and interact with your followers — keep up a conversation with them to help hold their interest, keep Facebook up to date with postings and pictures and use Twitter to re-tweet interesting things. Engagement will not only help keep your current fans and followers, but will also gain you new ones.
Specific tactics that retailers can use are promoting new items by having pictures and descriptions, having a special coupon code only for their fans or followers or running contests exclusively through social media. These all help increase awareness and therefore increase sales.
By Abby Heugel