By George Anderson
Understanding what’s about to be hot is often the difference between success and failure in the retailing arena, and Kenneth Hirst, president of the design firm Hirst Pacific, has some definite ideas on what’s going to be driving sales in stores and on web sites in the near-term.
Brands ain’t what they used to be. According to Mr. Hirst, companies such as Ralph Lauren and Coach have expanded from fashion and accessories into other areas such as home furnishings and are, in the process, turning consumers’ purchasing decisions from “a product selection to a lifestyle choice.”
Brand marketers such as Levi’s, says Mr. Hirst, have introduced tiered product lines to connect with consumers’ view of their own social status. Levi’s has introduced a top-of-the-line pair of jeans that competes against brands such as True Religion, Rock and Republic and other haute couture offerings in the denim category.
Packaged food companies have “gotten a wake-up call” and more products with innovative packaging are beginning to “pop-up and off supermarket shelves.”
The evangelists who predicted the convergence of technologies are proving to be right, albeit late in some cases. Mr. Hirst adds: “The convergence of communication and entertainment has left electronics companies with the competitive challenge of designing the ultimate user-interface experience. The next generation will be hybrid devices that are half land-based and half portable, expanding functionality and interface quality when at home, in the office or on the street.”
Today’s kids are tech savvy and are increasingly looking to electronics to deliver both entertainment and education.
While the inner workings of the technology may become more sophisticated, consumers are looking for easy-to-use functionality in everything from cosmetic compact cases to multi-function cell phones.
Guys care what they look like and that will only increase with age as they use products and engage in activities that keep them looking young.
Moderator’s Comment: Of the trends identified by Kenneth Hirst, which will have the greatest impact on retail sales in the near-term? Why?
George Anderson – Moderator