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What’s on trend?

Brookes & Co

In the fourth of a series of articles, first published by DIY Week, on sales and marketing in the home improvement and DIY industry, Kate from home and garden marketing agency Brookes & Co, shares her thoughts on keeping up to date with trends to maximise sales opportunities.

Knowing what’s popular with the consumer at any given moment is clearly a useful trick and sometimes it’s easy to work out just by observation and a common-sense awareness of factors like the weather or big, bold events like the World Cup or a Royal Wedding.

Being completely reliant on the obvious is probably not enough, however, either for retailers or suppliers, as it can end up being all a bit last minute and reactive. And sometimes even too late, if a sales opportunity is to be fully maximised.

How much better – and less stressful – it is to access information about what the big trends are going to be ahead of when they hit the streets, enabling planning, strategic thought about what might best enhance brand positioning or best suit a particular retail location or route to market.

Not to mention the ability to buy, order or manufacture the most appropriate products in the most appropriate quantities in good time.

Knowing what is going to be on trend with time enough to do something about it is easier said than done, however.

Working with your very own trend forecasters is a serious investment for any business, and while doing just that clearly pays off for some of the bigger suppliers and retailers, it’s not an option for everyone.

Accessing published research reports on consumer attitudes and spending habits for every relevant product sector in the home and garden market is a great idea, but it’s likely to prove an expensive one.

The sort of data freely available online from the big research companies is usually a year or two out of date – for obvious commercial reasons. So, for the majority who do not have marketing budgets large enough to stretch to the very latest in published research and trend prediction, here are a few thoughts on what can be done instead to make sure of being sufficiently forewarned in the trends game.

An excellent starting point is to investigate the market intelligence available via trade associations. Trade associations may well have collective agreements with major research companies and be able to supply members with vital data and trend information at a discount and in some cases without any cost at all.

As an example, the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA) provides members with up to date data and trend information from the likes of GlobalData, GfK, Fediyma, Key Note and Experian market research at a significant discount. Leading trend forecaster, Scarlet Opus also speaks regularly at BHETA events. Exhibitions are also a great source of trend information.

Clearly an opportunity to look at new products, these events usually have much else to offer in terms of seminar programmes and themed tours, focussing on up and coming or ‘hot’ consumer topics and how best to work with them – whether that’s British manufacture or environmental s appeal.

It’s also worth noting that exhibitions primarily aimed at one sector may – in trend terms – be just as useful for suppliers and retailers in other sectors. Glee for example will be valuable for interiors and housewares suppliers and retailers as much as garden players – if they know where to look.

By the same token Exclusively Housewares / Exclusively Electrical had plenty of information to offer to the garden and DIY sectors via its inspiring seminar programme.

From outdoor living and camping-friendly ranges to the latest in eco and recycled products, tips and advice for using social media to drive footfall and promote offline shopping experiences, seminars including GFK market updates and trend forecasting from Scarlet Opus – it was all there.

Marketing agencies specialising in home and garden and the built environment will also have ways of accessing the latest market research and trends information, so it’s a good idea to quiz them on what they know while working with them on marketing and communications in general.

After all trends are not just about products, but also about product presentation, point of sale, merchandising, display and communications campaigns across the board.

To illustrate what can be accessed through these three routes, here a few illustrations of current trends that might be worth some thought.

Smart Home (and Garden) According to Mintel’s 2018 report on consumer trends, attitudes and spending habits for the home, Smart connected devices are right now moving from being the territory of the so-called ‘early adopters’ and into the mainstream.

Almost half of consumers who are not already in the market are now interested in purchasing and of those, 26% said that could be persuaded to buy from the source which offered a free installation or set up / demo service.

Not only is this important for the home security and heating / energy players, this is also an interesting opportunity in the small domestic appliance sector and in garden care. Mintel’s facts and figures fit right in with what Scarlet Opus calls the ‘Eco 2.0’ trend which says that when it comes to energy and connectivity, it’s all about clever, easily adjustable controls, so as not to waste resources.

It’s a more sophisticated and experienced evolution of the environmental consciousness that arrived with consumers a few years ago. Simplification and Clarity Scarlet Opus refers to this trend simply as ‘Clarity’.

This is very much a design trend. It recognises a need for simplification and personal choice.

Think relaxing colours such as neutrals, pastels and sun-bleached.

But this is not only about colours. Products should be easy to move inside or outside and consumers also need to believe that they can choose and vary product finishes in terms of both colour and texture.

In other words, the purely decorative aspects of products should be able to be changed to suit changing décor, changing location – or even changing mood!

This very much ties in to the need for more inventive instore display with opportunities to try out and visualise how different looks might work in the home or garden.

Outdoor Rooms Alfresco dining has been around for a while, but the coming years will see this upping its significance by several notches.

No longer just about serving food outside courtesy of some decent garden furniture and a BBQ, this is now about the creation of fully resourced and styled outdoor rooms – lighting, flooring, heating, shelter, furnishing, and fully functional outdoor kitchen creation.

It’s a recognition that limited indoor space – which, incidentally sparks another key trend in the form of ‘clever storage’ – can be addressed by a move to entertaining which takes place outside.

his includes refrigeration, food preparation areas, fully fledged ovens, worktops, integrated sinks and drainage as well as the more obvious functional/decorative features such as stunning seating, firepits and pizza ovens.

The opportunities for accessories to accompany and enhance the ‘built’ elements are obvious; as are the opportunities for collaboration and cross-promotion with other players in the market. Brookes & Co is the UK’s only marketing agency specialising in the home and garden sectors.

It can help with strategic planning, websites and digital, PR, social media, design, media, exhibitions, POS & product launches.

For more information about market research, data, trends and communications in the home, garden and built environment markets, contact Kate on 01889 598600 / kate@brookesandco.net, or visit www.brookesandco.net.