A long-time subscriber to The Trend Curve wrote to me a couple of days ago to ask my opinion of Farmhouse collections going forward. I told her that I haven’t seen Farmhouse as a trend for some time. Farmhouse is a core look. The same is true of Mid-Century Modern. It’s a basic, not a trend.
But don’t let a “basic” designation keep you from exploiting either of these decorating directions. There is still plenty of money and margin to be made. In fact, it is almost always the case that core colors, materials, motifs and styles generate more sales by SKU and by dollar than those that are called out as trend. The tricky part is that most consumers don’t get excited about shopping for core items. They are more likely to be energized by newness and trend.
The role of trend is to catch the eye and draw people in. Consumers buy the trend, plus items that work with what they already have, items that are often in the core.
Yes, trends are exciting. Consumers crave them because they are fresh and, in some cases, because they are a visual representation of progress. And trends are so effective! Just a splash of a trend color or style can wake up an entire room. Trend items typically generate better gross margins, too. This is especially true on the incoming side of their lifecycle, when supply is low and demand is building.
No wonder everyone loves trends. No wonder trends sell so well.
Still, basics sell more.
That’s because the sales arc for a core color or style is longer. For example, trends today typically last for two-and-a-half years from their first emergence to the last time they have any significance at retail (this is down from 7 years in the early 1980s, confirming that product-development cycles continue to shorten). By contrast, basics can have healthy life cycles lasting up to eight, and in unique cases, up to ten years. During those years, the rate of sale for these classic design elements is more consistent and easier to anticipate. Trend items can be in-and-out in a flash. Sales are missed, but demand is stoked. You rarely see out-of-stocks on core items.
With basics providing provide stability and predictability to what might otherwise be a volatile assortment, it’s not surprising that they are also favorites.
Can you sell trend without also selling basics? Can you sell basics without also selling trend? The answer to both questions is yes. Yet, sales are almost always higher for both trend and core items when they are sold together.
So, go ahead and show established grays and incoming warm reds. Offer both already popular Mid-Century Modern and just-emerging Aboriginal styles. Each will one help you sell the other.