• Cinde Ingram

From Market: Global changes shaping long-term trends forecast

Robert Idol directs WithIt seminar at Atlanta Market

While fashion’s influence on home furnishing designs is faster than ever, expect long-term design trends to reflect changing technology, the world economy and the new world order.
That global view was what Robert Idol, Lane Furniture vice president and creative director, directed retailers and designers’ attention toward as he discussed trends at a WithIt seminar during the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market.
“We really have to start looking beyond where we are,” Idol said. “The world economy is more important today than it has ever been, so it’s something we really have to focus on.”    
Idol reminded attendees how the U.S. dollar has lost its dominant role and shrunk in value in relation to the euro. Because China, India and Russia are emerging as leading countries, their traditionally luxe, richly detailed styles and cultures are starting to influence designs, Idol said. Look for a trickle down of more luxurious materials and graphic patterns with incredible detail.
Both retailers and manufacturers can benefit by catering to these trends:    
*Globilization – societies are closely connected, whether through sourcing, Internet or multicultural companies and families;
*Global responsibility – current shift away from the got-to-have-it 1980s;
*Green – eco-friendly products are a hot topic but will develop as more of a craftsman style, marked by unique or custom designs;
*High energy costs – make store visits less frequent and quality and services more important;
*Technology – recognizing how it is changing consumer desires,
*Trading down to trade up – and other changes in consumer buying behavior.
Idol compared rotary telephones, which were available only in black, to today’s multipurpose cell phones, available in numerous colors, sizes and for many uses. He noted television’s movement from three channels and deep cabinets to hundreds of cable channels and flat screens, up to 150” wide. “We have to realize that consumers are going to demand space for this,” Idol said. As technology evolves, home furnishings have to adapt to complement new shapes and sizes.
While consumer surveys show brand does not matter, Idol observed he can walk down any street in any city and see women carrying look-alike designer handbags. He asked the audience their impressions of various logos and got strong response. “So the brand transcends and there is this whole wannabe ‘I can’t really afford it but I want everyone to think I can’ and that’s an important segment of the market to play to,” he said. “If you can give them quality and value, you are going to have that consumer.”
The home furnishings industry has jumped on the bandwagon for eco-friendly green products without having all the answers to consumers’ questions. As for the color green, it was all over products at both the Atlanta market and the Showtime fabric fair in late 2007. In some places, bright green appeared for shock value. “People aren’t afraid to use color anymore,” Idol said.
As with any trend, when one direction becomes commonplace the more style-driven people and companies will reinvent themselves and move onto the next thing, Idol said.
“I think most of us in our industry are glad to see 2007 go away,” Idol said. “Everyone’s looking forward to 2008 being a better year.” He added he doesn’t expect a major turnaround until 2009. 
Seminar sponsor, Women in the Home Furnishings Industry, marked its 10th anniversary in 2007 by establishing a second scholarship program. For more information, visit www.withit.org.

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