I have a few colleagues who spend nearly as much time as I do puzzling over the “why” of trend. One of them is Erika Woelfel, the genius behind the Colwell Color Studio and the woman who creates paint systems for companies around the world. I admire Erika’s point of view. In fact, I trust it so much that I have asked for her participation in two of our forecasts, Wall To Wall™ Neutrals and Skin-Tone Neutrals™. If you have purchased either of these color products you’ll find a very public “thank you” to Erika right in our How-To guides.
Just this week, I spoke with Erika from my hotel room in Toronto where I was preparing to address the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association at their annual conference. We were talking about how color trends have accelerated turnover in product assortments. Her opinion matches mine: color is making headway fast and colors are moving through their life cycles even faster. Erika’s comments are worth noting:
“When a two-year color projection is released, manufacturers incorporate the colors immediately, no longer waiting a year to use them. Its not surprising given the constant pressure to innovate, customize, speed up production, and keep price as low, low, low as possible!”
She is so right!
In 1999, I forecasted that the life span of a trend—which was just about to mark a 20% decline from five years to four in 2000—would drop again in 2005. My projection was a 25% drop from four years to a three-year life cycle. Now that 2005 is here it’s easy to see this forecast coming true not only for color, but also for themes, materials, motifs and textures. And with the window of opportunity so narrow for each aspect of a product, more and more companies are racing to be at the forefront of each trend. Not only that, but these companies are found at all price point levels and in all channels of distribution. This is a fundamental change.
It used to be that everyone worried about being knocked off. Now everyone is worried about being left behind, so they need to plan for nearly constant newness. For some forward companies, this has already become the norm. But don’t miss the word PLAN in the sentence above. Planning is even more important now than it was a year ago.
Those who view this new three-year trend paradigm as an exciting challenge will plan for, rather than anxiously await, quick turnover. They will have the next step queued up rather than wait for a color or style to run its course before moving on. Yes, this behavior will contribute to even faster trend life cycles, but it will also ensure that those who model it will become masters of their future successes, not victims of perceived chaos.