Although the majority of my time is spent looking far into the future, a portion of it is always spent at retail looking at what’s happening in the here and now. I believe that retail reconnaissance is absolutely vital to the business of trend. It provides a real-world view of how color, shape, style, materials and pattern forecasts that I’ve given to Members of The Trend Curve‘s subscriber family, or through trend seminars, are playing out.
I do store checks wherever my travel schedule takes me. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be in Greensboro, Seattle and Los Angeles. Within the past few weeks I visited Atlanta, Chicago and High Point in the US, and Porto and Paris in Europe.
One of the stores I pop into most often in Paris is Merci. This retail gem offers a unique array of furniture, tableware, kitchen products, textiles and stationery items. Their apparel assortment is equally interesting. A quiet lunch in their restaurant/bookstore is divine.
During my most-recent visit, the Merci for Serax campaign greeted visitors as they walked in the door. The 12 pieces formed an à la carte tableware collection called Nouvelle Table. They can be stacked or fitted together, and they have no predetermined purpose. Plates can be used as lids. Cups can hold desserts. Colors (Mastic, Storm, Ochre, Ink Black) can be mixed or used in a monochromatic statement, along with maple accents and metal serving pieces that help to create a trend-right mixed-media table. This approach pushes the ongoing trend toward casual living, personalization and multifunction on the table to the furthest reaches. Nouvelle Table debuted concurrently at the Maison & Objet trade fair.
Also on show was the the Pasta & Pasta kitchen collection, designed by Paola Navone for Serax. Using graphic, black-and-white for a collection dedicated to cooking and serving a basic food like pasta confirms that black-and-white combinations, in so many interpretations, are classics. Pasta & Pasta includes pots, pans, baking dishes, tableware and textiles. It was also featured at Maison & Objet, and was getting rave reviews from buyers while I was in the Serax stand.
There were so many more products worthy of a trend-spotter’s attention at Merci. For example, dinnerware appeared in a directional Bordeaux color and whimsy (growing, recommended) took a turn on the furniture floor in clever chairs. Cookbooks were all about natural and vegan lifestyles. Look below for a gallery of images to show you how these trends looked at retail.
If you need more from store checks, don’t forget to check outThe Trend Curve‘s series of retail reconnaissance reports. We know that retail reconnaissance is vital to assortment decision-making, but we also know that very few people can find the time to do it consistently. That’s why we developed Taking Stock of Retail™. This series of reports covers best practices at retail for the key seasonal holidays of the year. In addition to trend topics, we show you the clever products, modern messaging, ingenious packaging, licensing opportunities that stood out in the Americas, Europe and Australia.
John Currie says
Thanks, Lady M. I love retail. I love to shop (on-line, too). What may define retail going forward is it’s sense of focus and intention (thank you, Nancy Lubin, for first starting my awareness of the whole notion and importance of “intention”). Good retail has always been “pretty.” Regular retail has always been functional. Life is about experience and relationships, and these are key to retail, too, just as Eating in a resto is about far more than just the food.
The feelings that we experience in a store—sensory and emotional—are what stimulate us, excite us upon entering a new place because of its surprise and resonance. The delight in finding beautiful/unusual/unique/fun/well-designed product motivates our desire to buy and our actual purchases. The relationship between products—items well-matched and complementary—and the way they relate to and fit within our life style/home/sense of self. The conclusion that the combined value of product, environment and experience falls somewhere between “good” and “high.” The experience memory of all of that combined together is what will bring us eagerly back to THAT store, hoping to experience all of that again.
On-line shopping is about function and price. It’s the easiest place to buy what we already know and use. We require nothing more than a button to confirm today what we decided upon yesterday. It can be about discovery, too, but there is a randomness to that search that is different. I often feel satisfied when shopping on-line; I don’t ever recall ever feeling inspired.
So for retail to thrive, it must be that it focuses 51% on delivering an overall experience that delivers 8 pounds of coffee in a 5 pound can. Intentionally driving to provide more than just product, more than just pretty, more than just friendly. The merchandise. The decor. The authentic involvement of the staff. The way our senses are teased, flattered, tempted, pleased, surprised, rewarded. If it’s analogous to food, it’s perhaps UMAMI, the fifth taste, after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It’s that hard to describe lingering, satisfying, want-to-have-it-again bit of life that is worth savoring, remembering, and looking forward to again.