When my wife and I are shopping in a multi-department retail store, she always knows where to find me when we get separated. Inevitably, I am wandering the aisles in the Housewares section. What sheets, dinnerware, appliances, cooking equipment and household accessories are on the racks, on sale, sold out or in the clearance section? What colors are low in supply and what finishes are in the discount section? Has the “latest trend” been reduced in price?
Initially, we all want to know what is new. If we shop a store, or flip through a mail-order catalog or browse an online website, we do so to see the latest options. Understanding what is waning is of equal importance.
I wander retail aisles to try and understand the impact on the look and trends of home interiors. One retailer selling orange, bunny motif accessories is just a funky idea. After the initial sighting, that observation is filed someplace in my brain. I move on. When I then notice the fifth or tenth retailer selling a variety of goods with orange bunnies it is likely becoming a fad or possibly a trend. An idea with which some reckoning is needed. Orange bunnies will now apparently be a factor.
Of course, orange bunny motifs are deceptively simple. They are most likely going to end up in the sale rack during the next season and in the “dollar store” six months later. Paying as much attention to the closeout racks as the new merchandise will help in the understanding of the trend cycle. One orange bunny at 50% off is a sale. Every retailer with all of their orange bunnies at 50% to 75% off and orange bunnies aplenty at the “Dollars Are US” store means they are no longer relevant.
I remember the first time I questioned the continuing viability of Oil-Rubbed Bronze. The finish had been red-hot for about a decade. I knew, the end had to be near, but it remained popular. I toured a new construction home (I’m always touring new construction!) and noticed the oil rubbed faucet in the bathroom. It immediately looked dated. The dark lighting above brought a depressed feel to the room. I knew then, it was on the downslide. A subsequent visits to Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Target confirmed stocked shelves of oil-rubbed bronze. When mass retailers are neck deep in a trend, it is clear, the end is nigh.
When a long-serving trend winds down it means a new option is on the rise. By paying attention to deteriorating trends, it forces observers (and me!) to ask the question of replacement. That in itself is just as loaded a problem. There is almost never a one-for-one swap. What happens after a trend deteriorates is a rebalancing. New ideas come forward and fill in gaps, trends midway through a cycle become more dominate and some other rising trends might accelerate their decline. In short, it turns into an aesthetic game of “Whac-A-Mole.” Balance is usually stabilized when the economy is roaring. Sluggish economies instigate change.
Consciously or subconsciously, we all know trends have a finite lifespan. Our personal methods for digesting them and using the information to our best ability can be supplemented by good observation skills. It is important to comprehend upcoming trends. One way which we can supplement that knowledge is by embracing the information gathered around the discount rack and discount stores.
4 replies on “Scouring the Discount Racks for Trends”
As usual a thoughful and VERY easy to understand essay.
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Thanks! Glad it is helpful!
I haven’t seen Orange bunnies yet, but I’ll be on the lookout for them! haha. As a designer I try and steer my clients to classic finishes for their homes for the larger and more expensive or hard to remove items – i.e. tiles, wood flooring, larger lighting. But for the smaller items, paint, smaller pendants, hardware, pillows, feel free to indulge in the trends then when you are tired of them pass them along to someone who will love them just as much as you initially did.
In particular, Gray flooring is out, out, out. Just look at Home depot or Lowes, you are right, when there is a lot of stock of something, it’s usually on it’s way out!
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Thanks Jil! No more gray…until it comes back in 20 years!