There is a lot riding on Christmas every year. For 2020 and into 2022, however, there has never been more at stake. Why is that? To begin with, consumers are planning to reign in their spending. A July 15 Coresight Research survey revealed that 48% of consumers intend to spend less on the Holidays in 2020 than they did in 2019. There are many reasons for this, but the pandemic certainly figures large. For example, job loss has surged since March. While nationwide unemployment numbers are down from their peak, they remain extraordinarily high.
Just as important is how comfortable consumers feel about going out and about, and more minutely, how they will feel about doing so with their children. Forrester Analytics research from mid-May reported that 42% of consumers do NOT plan to return to stores, or have not done so, even as stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. The July Coresight survey shows that the proportion of consumers avoiding any public place has spiked to 85%. Shopping centers and malls remain the most-avoided places.
While these forecasts may lift over the next few months, they also may not. To make things even more complicated, supply-chain disruptions are beginning to have an impact, motivating SKU reductions at the point of manufacturing, as well as at retail.
But there is too much at stake when it comes to Christmas, and we can’t just leave the outcome to chance. So, what’s the best approach to assortment planning?
I would like to suggest that creating a trend strategy should be at the top of the list. The first action item in that strategy should be to answer one question: what is the right balance of trend and core product for my Holiday assortment?
Trend products feature new palettes, patterns and themes that cause consumers to rethink their environment. Core items are seasonal favorites that consumers can build on from year to year. These two assortments often relate to one another in some way, but they have very different missions. Trend products are the attention-getters. They typically produce higher margin and turnover, yet they come with some measure of risk. Core products are rock-solid options that can be relied up on for steady sales. These are the basics. As such, they come with lower risk. The key is always to strike the right balance between your trend and basic segments.
To discover the right equation for each business, it is important to understand the image your brand projects, and to know what your customer expects from you. That information will help you to craft an appropriate trend formula. For instance, if you have worked to position your company on the cutting edge, or if you know that your customer is relying upon you to bring them newness, you want a higher commitment to trend product. If you are seen instead as the best place to go for established looks, or if your customer tends to be more conservative, a smaller slice of your assortment pie should be reserved for trend.
It’s likely that a larger segment of the market will plan for a more-conservative consumers for Christmas products through 2021 at least, and perhaps even into 2022. But even in the most conservative environment, it would be a grave mistake to eliminate trend assortments altogether. In fact, this is probably the best time to capitalize on them for Holiday décor.
Especially at a moment when going out—something that is so much a part of our Holiday traditions—may be either impractical or impossible for many consumers, trend furnishings and décor will become tools through which experiences can be created. Consumers have pursued experiences so feverishly for years, and they have been longing for new ones since the pandemic arrived. Whether those trends do nothing more than create new experiences for a few individuals in their home, or their reach extends to the small, trusted groups that will be invited inside, trends will play a key role. This will true, even if that experience is nothing more than a feeling of comfort and well-being.
Christmas trend products can lift the spirit, both at retail and in the home. At a time when it can feel as though life is being held in a state of suspended animation, trends provide newness and a sense of forward momentum. This is actually true, even when they are rooted in nostalgia, which has become a key word for Holiday season impacted by the pandemic. And often, they spark joy. Do not underestimate the potential of joy as a motivator, both during the pandemic and in the year that follows.
At the point of purchase, trends do the heavy lifting. They are a great way to get products and displays noticed in the first place, and to make them more memorable for later on. This becomes a catalyst for interaction, because it draws shoppers in, whether that means walking in the door or clicking on a page that results in a shopping cart filled with Christmas items.
To learn more about the trends that can help you fill those carts, join my webinar for AmericasMart, called Santa’s Got A Whole New Bag™, on July 29. Register here: You can also follow @trendcurve on Instagram and Michelle Lamb on LinkedIn.