In the past two weeks, I’ve received emails from a colleague and a Member of our subscriber family. Each of them had a similar question: How important should the color trends from groups like Pantone/ASID and others be in the overall inventory mix and marketing?
Companies—from small, family-owned entrepreneurial retailers to big consumer-goods manufacturers—want to be on-trend, but which trend? And how deep should they go with an untested color, even if it is the Color Of The Year? I thought I would share my answers here.
Whether you are a big retailer or a small one, a major manufacturer or new startup, any color decision can come back to bite you if you haven’t planned appropriately. Here is what to consider:
1. KNOW WHO YOU ARE: What does your customer expect of you. Trend leadership? To be a follower? A place somewhere in the middle? Make sure you buy into newness with that role in mind.
2. UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TREND AND BASIC: Everybody loves trend and they want to be on-trend, but the truth is that—while trend may bring people in the door—basics typically represent more SKU’s and more sales dollars than trend. Don’t treat your entire assortment like it’s all about trend. It isn’t.
3. DECIDE HOW MUCH OF YOUR ASSORTMENT SHOULD BE DEVOTED TO TREND: This goes back to 1 and 2. Everyone should make a STRATEGIC DECISION about the balance of trend and basic in their assortment. If you aren’t sure where to start, try 25% trend and adjust from there (very few businesses should have a trend segment higher than 35% of their total). This ratio should be revisited annually. If anything has changed in the overall business plan or if customer expectations are evolving, the ratio can be adjusted.
4. DETERMINE HOW IMPORTANT THE COLOR OF THE YEAR SHOULD BE IN YOUR TREND MESSAGE: The Color of the Year is a general designation. It doesn’t really work for every category equally. Some of furniture people had trouble with Radiant Orchid, for example. It just didn’t translate well. Is Marsala really worth 25% of your store’s total seasonal allotment for trend? Maybe, but maybe not. It depends on who you are (back to 1). But it might be worth 10% or 15% of your TREND open-to-buy for a particular month or season. Adjust the number upward for the next period if it’s a sellout.
This is all about making a trend statement while reducing financial risk. It keeps trend from being driven based on the buyer’s or product-development manager’s visceral response, and moves it into the realm of strategic planning.