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Creative Leisure News
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Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com

 

 


Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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Readers Respond to CLN's Trend Analysis

Different perspectives, thought-provoking ideas.

Staff Report (October 2, 2011)

(Note: The last issue of CLN contained articles and a commentary on trends and a request for reader input. The articles are repeated here, followed by readers' reactions.)

COMMENTARY: THE ENIGMA OF TRENDS

Much of this issue is devoted to trends, what keeps them strong, and why, sometimes, they fade. This has come to mind recently because people are asking, once again, "What's the next big thing?"

Of course, nobody knows, especially me. I'm convinced there will be one, but how do you recognize it when it appears on the horizon? Consider some history:

Many, if not most, industry trends start somewhere else. Macrame with sailors, scrapbooking with the Victorians, stenciling with New Englanders, and of course painting, needlework, and sewing go back almost to Adam and Eve.

And many trends may fade but never truly disappear. For its coverage of Fashion Week in New York, the 9/14 issue of the Wall Street Journal profiled two "hot" young designers, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who created a skirt that looks like, yes, macramé. They said they were inspired by one of our industry's early instruction books, Classic Macrame.

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on why something becomes a trend, what keeps it going, and what can contribute to consumers' declining interest. Email your thoughts to me at mike@clnonline.com.

WHAT GIVES A TREND STAYING POWER?

Numerous industry research studies have revealed that consumers craft because a handmade gift means more than a readymade, to save money, and the all-important "I made it myself" feeling. Every product category meets those needs, but most categories have qualities that meet consumer needs above and beyond these basics

Social. Whether it's a shop crop, a sewing circle, or a quilting bee, consumers need to feel a part of a group. Even much of decorative painting occurs in a group setting.

Something new to learn. Years ago a company invested a fortune developing products and techniques that enabled consumers to create paintings that looked like cross stitch, which was wildly popular at the time. The problem was, after about 10 minutes of practice, the consumer had perfected the technique and there was nothing left to learn. Hence much of the challenge was gone. In contrast, every traditional painter believes his or her next painting will be better than the last.

Ease of entry. A designer could create a pattern/design for cross stitch, quilting, doll-lmaking, etc., go to a PIP printer, and presto, she's a publisher. That creates far more designs in the marketplace to inspire the consumer. On the retail level, stocking a scrapbook store requires a far smaller investment than opening an electronics store. The lower the initial investment, the more people will take the plunge and start a business.

Consumable. If a consumer eats the cake she made, she's motivated to make another cake. If she sells the jewelry she created, she has more money to buy more beads.

Heirlooms. A quilt or a scrapbook will probably be handed down for generations. That can help justify the investment in time and money.

Education. Wilton has been relentless for decades about teaching consumers.

Television. Project Runway has made sewing "cool" to a new generation. All of the cooking shows certainly help food crafts, and the numerous home dec series usually include at least one crafty project.

Profits. If a consumer can make money selling her creations, that's just one more benefit.

Healthy. Knit and crochet projects are often considered family heirlooms, too, but there is a growing body of evidence that the repetitive nature of the activities are calming, relaxing. "The rhythmic, repetitive movements of a hobby like knitting are soothing and distracting," Katherine Applegate, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist for the Duke University health system told the Ladies Home Journal.

Status and self-image. A consumer creates a little knick-knack, and the neighbor says, "Oh, how cute." The same consumer paints a landscape and the neighbor says, "Oh, I didn't know you were an artist." That cachet certainly helps.

WHY DOES A TREND FADE?

Readymades improve. Flowermaking was once a huge industry trend because the quality of readymade silk flowers was so poor. If a consumer wanted nice silk flowers, she had to make them herself. As the quality of readymades improved and their prices were low, however, there was less impetus to make flowers.

Supply & demand. Dollmaking received a huge boost when Cabbage Patch dolls were introduced. For an extensive period of time, the demand for the dolls far outweighed the supply, which caused many consumers to try making dolls themselves. When the supply caught up with the demand….

Technology. The copier machine and then the Internet made it almost impossible for the hundreds of cross-stitch chart publishers to survive. A consumer buys a chart, makes copies for her friends and uploads it online for the world to see. Result? The publisher and retailer sell one copy, not hundreds. Result? As publishers faded away, there were far fewer new designs to excite and entice the consumer. A real challenge for scrapbooking is to convince consumers to print the photos they've taken.

Price wars. As CLN explained in the previous issue, price wars shrunk the profit margin for plastic canvas vendors and retailers to almost nothing, so they concentrated on other categories.

Fashion changes. When consumers want "bling," jewelry-making and wearable art are hot. They cool when the pendulum swings the other way to a simple, almost austere look.

Consumers change. If consumers are content to duplicate a model, they may take up cross stitch or decorative painting. If they want unique, one-of-a-kind projects they may turn to scrapbooking or jewelry-making.

READER RESPONSES

1. Look Back, Then Forward"

The one thing aging brings us is a perspective with some depth. Everyone needs to read or re-read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point for a closer look at the way trends develop.  

What I can tell you from experience is that trends in all things have an approximately 30 year rise and fall. It takes about that long for the current generation to latch onto something long forgotten -- at least long enough for them to think they've discovered something new and in so doing, get excited about it. They add their own twists with modern updates and what was dead and boring is made new and trendy. You can see this happen over and over again in fashion, home décor, and most certainly in crafting. 

Just look back in order to look forward! -- Shea  Szachara, Shea Design

2. How Many Belts Do You Need?

Unless you are selling your art or craft, there is only so much of an item you can have or give away. How many belts, plant hangers, and other items can you macramé for yourself or as gifts? The same can be said for counted cross stitch or other embroidered items, and I think this is part of the reason a craft fades. – Name Withheld.

3. The Value of Project Runway

I have been in the sewing industry in various positions for more than 40 years, and I believe that shows such as Project Runway may cause a temporary jump in sales of sewing related products, but I predict it will rapidly fade and potentially cause a decline in sewing. 

People watching those shows have an unrealistic idea of what it takes to make a garment and the time, skill, and effort involved. Contestants on those shows have been sewing and studying for years. You get people wanting to make a weird-looking dress out of unsuitable fabric that they don’t know how to handle with a cheap machine that won’t work smoothly -- and they get discouraged and quit. Those people, who might have enjoyed sewing had they taken the time to learn techniques and fabrics, won’t take it up again. 

Custom clothiers are getting clients who come in with sketches and sometimes fabric wanting the dressmaker to make their creation. You have to explain to them that certain design elements just don’t work together. You can not make a suit out of chiffon. It can take real effort and cost to beat their unsuitable fabric into submission for a garment with interfacings, underlinings, and other tricks of the trade.

Mike, you have talked about your wife beading. If I watched a show on beading, I could no more make my own version of an elaborately beaded necklace as my first project than these women can make a good garment the first time around. I need to learn to properly use the different tools. I need to learn how to properly attach jump rings, findings, and crimpers. I need to practice on some smaller projects like earrings then build up to the showpiece necklace. I would give up on beading very quickly. This is what I see with sewing. – Name Withheld

4. A Response To Society

I'm curious if trends are a response to other things going on in society. Do the hobbies fill a need we have and may not be aware of? Does the hobby bring us closer to people, distract us from problems, help slow us down in a faster world? I think the hobbies may reflect what is going on in our economy, culture, climate and much more!

Look at the GO GREEN trend right now. Could that be a response to the whole global warming problem? I think it is, but I think that what starts as a purposeful solution can turn into a fad or trend. People may forget where it started, but there is something that keeps them attracted to continuing the trend. I'm not sure what that is -- maybe it's biological, psychological, sociological? Carrie MacGillis, Michigan Scrapbooker magazine

5. Changing Faster Than Ever

Note: In a piece for Creative Retailer magazine, CLN wrote, "Trends come and go," which drew this response:."Yes, and so fast that an eye off the ball for longer than a week sometimes spells disaster, whereas just a few short years ago, it took months, if ever, to build a trend or a following on a new idea; it can now be the hottest thing since sliced bread on the first of the month and by the 25th it needs to be closed out." – Bob Ferguson, Crafts and Frames

6. It's All About the Consumer

Trends are born by the consumer and kept going by the consumer. The consumer determines the direction the trend takes. In other words, you cannot force feed the consumer. What many forget is you have to listen to the consumer, see what she is buying, and provide what she is asking for. – Bill Crowley

xxx

 

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