Editor’s Note: Our newest guest columnist, Nellie Lide, came to my attention last year with a blog article she had written about shopping trends. I was so impressed with her treatment of the subject, that I invited her to write a guest column on shopping trends you can expect to see more of during 2007. If you run a retail business or an online etailing business, you want to pay attention to this post. — Anita Campbell, Editor
By Nellie Lide
Our shopping traditions are changing. Where we shop, why we shop, how we shop. Here are five shopping trends to consider when running your own small business:
Trend 1 — Shopping as a Societal Force for a Better World
Now this idea has been around forever (think the Newman’s Own brand), but recently, it has taken on new dimensions with the founding of (Red) by Bono and Bobby Shriver. Their manifesto states:
“As first world consumers, we have tremendous power. What we collectively choose to buy, or not to buy, can change the course of history and life on this planet ….”
A percentage of the profits from each (RED) product sold is given to The Global Fund. Apple, Gap, American Express, MySpace, and YouTube have attached themselves to the Red cause. On World AIDS Day, Google ran a red ribbon that clicked through to the RED homepage. Retailers have committed to sell Red products for the next five years.
There’s also evidence that non-profits are opening more stores and meshing their message and fundraising into a single experience. See, for example, Daniel Pink’s Trend Desk article and the section entitled “Stores with a Cause” for more details.
Trend 2 — Men Come Into Their Own as Shoppers
According to a National Retail Federation Survey, during the post-Thanksgiving 2006 shopping weekend in the United States (called Black Friday weekend):
“Though more women went shopping than men (47.9% vs. 37.4%), men undoubtedly outspent their counterparts. According to the survey, men who hit the stores this weekend outspent women by 38.1 percent, with men spending $420.37 on average and women spending $304.30. Over the weekend, more than one-third (39.5%) of men bought consumer electronics or computer-related accessories compared to one-fourth (27.5%) of women. Half of the men surveyed (49.2%) purchased books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games compared to only 34.1 of women who purchased the same products.”
Men are also spending about 10 percent more for apparel than they were two years ago, according to data from NPD Group Inc., a consumer and retail information company. And thanks to the two-career household and fathers’ increasing interest in raising their kids, men are influencing what to buy for them. The creators of the expensive Bugaboo stroller purposely went after dads, designing a black-and-chrome buggy with a mean set of tires. And Bugaboo’s ads focus on engineering and design.
According to The NPD Group, in 2005, the rate of growth of men’s clothing purchases outpaced the growth rate for women’s purchases (figures for 2006 are not yet available) .
“The surge in men’s apparel sales came from some of the most unexpected places, such as young men buying a suit. Teens and young adult men have finally ‘discovered the suit.’ When exploring that further, NPD found that young men never owned a suit, never wore a suit and never saw their father in a suit – yet, they have migrated towards dressing up to be ‘cool.’ We are seeing a shift in the younger generation reaching their image through grooming and dressing up,” said [NPD chief industry analyst, Marshal] Cohen.
Finally, in a sign of gender shopping parity, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that nearly as many men as women experience compulsive buying disorder, a condition marked by binge buying and subsequent financial hardship. Researchers had initially thought 90% of those with the disorder would be women.
Trend 3 — Celebrity Wannabe Shopping – So In, So Easy
Though celebrities may have a negative influence on our purchases when they endorse a product (according to a survey by The NPD Group) – what they wear and how they take care of themselves is a different story. This particular shopping niche has always been the purview of magazines like People, US Weekly, Star and others. But with television shows like Project Runway, Ugly Betty and America’s Next Top Model (not to mention the recent movie “The Devil Wears Prada”) bringing high fashion to the masses, we’re starting to feel a sense of entitlement. And the Internet — as with many things — has made it possible for so many more people to “dress like the stars.” Some examples:
- Like.com — Visitors to this site can browse through selected items in various celebrity wardrobes (like Scarlett Johansson or Jessica Simpson), or they can type in “gold hoop earrings” and get pages of pictures of that item and information on price and where to buy.
- SeenON! — SeenON! brings you the who, what, and where behind the products you see on screen. There’s even a blog. Here’s a typical entry: “Here at SeenON!, its our job to bring you the hot (and sometimes the not-so-hot) clothes celebrities are wearing. Lately, it has come to our attention that, despite a few positive blips on the SeenON! fashion radar, the fashion sense of pop diva Britney Spears seems like it may have passed the point of no return ….”
- Star Style — Opened in 2006, the site allows you to shop for both clothing ensembles worn by TV stars and the furnishings that decorate show sets.
Trend 4 — Social Shopping
This is the blossoming of a shopping trend I wrote about last year – that consumers increasingly trust and turn to other consumers to find out the truth about products and services.
David Beisel of Genuine VC blog defines social shopping as: “… [S]haring the act of shopping itself with others, and I view it as a subset of social commerce as a whole. Just as some people enjoy shopping with others in the real world, some will enjoy doing it virtually within a social network.”
To qualify as a site offering social shopping, Beisel says it has to offer three activities that people can do together: (1) discover/find, (2) collect/organize, and (3) promote/share/connect/recommend/publish. He points to these five sites as the leaders in the social shopping arena:
Trend 5 — Shopping for Temporary Ownership: The Shopper as Buyer AND Seller
I’m not convinced this qualifies as a trend — but the idea is fascinating. Daniel Nissanoff wrote a book called Futureshop, which says:
“… [T]hat the eBay auction phenomenon is about to explode in a big new way, revolutionizing how all consumers — not just eBay mavens — do their shopping, not only online but offline as well. The big payoff of this revolution is for consumers: They will be able to “trade up” more often to buy the brands they most want by embracing a new norm of temporary ownership: We will be able to buy more of the things we really want, because we’ll also be regularly selling off the things we no longer want or need. We’ll be transformed from an “accumulation nation” into an “auction culture.” Consider this intriguing fact: In the new auction culture, Manolo Blahnik shoes, a Louis Vuitton handbag, a Hermes tie, or a Bugaboo baby stroller will actually be the better deals ….”
“… Nissanoff reveals that a massive growth of online auction “facilitators” is under way that will make buying and selling online so hassle-free, so reliable, and so lucrative that the masses of consumers who have stayed away will jump aboard. Most prominent among the facilitators are dropshops, where you can bring your goods for sale and they’ll handle the whole auction and shipping process. Thousands of such locations have opened in the last two years; they will soon be as pervasive as Starbucks shops ….”
I think there’s something to this — though I’m not sure it’s as imminent as Nissanoff believes it to be. But there are signs:
- Re-gifting is morphing into re-selling — Ebay released a survey that found that over half of Americans surveyed say it is socially acceptable to “re-gift” presents they do not like, will not use, or do not fit. Nearly one in ten will sell the unwanted item, with nearly half of those selling the item online.
- The Paradies Shops – located in airports they have a Read & Return Program. Simply put: Buy a book. Read it. Return it within six months (to any city). Receive 50% of your money back.
- CompUSA set up a pilot program last year called Easy to eBay to let customers drop off goods to be auctioned on eBay: “In addition to offering the usual menu of listing, packaging and delivery services for a cut of the final eBay selling price, CompUSA is offering something its rivals don’t: the option to receive credit toward purchases in CompUSA stores, in lieu of cash as payment for goods sold on eBay.”
- Callaway Golf recognized the opportunity in the resale auction market. And to battle counterfeit goods set up its own site for pre-owned and certified Callaway Golf products. That way, customers can trade-up for new clubs and it increases loyalty to the company.
- Tourneau, the world’s largest watch retailer, allows you to trade in any Tourneau watch for credit towards a new, more expensive one. Tourneau also has a certified, pre-owned site like Callaway.
To read more about shopping trends, along with many more citations to supporting sources, read the expanded version on Nellie’s blog New Persuasion.