Six Tips for Finding Hot New Products
The most successful players in the cart and kiosk industry—whether they’re retailers, leasing managers or suppliers—know it’s absolutely essential they keep a keen eye out for new products and spot trends as they’re taking off. If you aren’t part of this crowd yet, there’s a good chance a lot of prime opportunities are passing you by.
Here are six tips on where to look for new product introductions and how to stay one step ahead of “the next big thing.”
Read It, Clip It!
Great trend-spotters have an insatiable appetite for reading. Often with the help of the Internet, they read local, regional and national newspapers. They subscribe to trade and consumer magazines, online or print. They visit thousands of websites every year, trolling for info on demographic trends, consumer buying patterns and the latest product introductions. But they don’t just read; they clip. At any given time, they’ll have various piles of articles or product ads they’re saving for later reference. Online, their bookmarks are usually stuffed with the latest product news or retail happenings. Clipping various newspaper, catalog, magazine and website content not only helps them track what they’re reading, but also helps them spot emerging trends as certain retailing ideas “pile up” along with the clips.
Get Your DailyCandy.
DailyCandy.com bills itself as “the ultimate insider’s guide to what’s hot, new and undiscovered.” The site has news about new interesting products in numerous categories: fashion, beauty, arts and culture, fun, food and drink, etc. If you’re interested in regional trends, you can even narrow your field of interest to one of a dozen regions—Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, L.A., Seattle, etc.
To make your life really easy, sign up for the DailyEmail that includes one new product- or trend-focused item delivered to your inbox every day. For text-message enthusiasts the site also has a mobile service that delivers a short version of DailyCandy to your phone or PDA.
Be a Buzz Agent.
Another contemporary Internet community is BuzzAgent.com, a market-research site that arranges for consumers to try new products and services and share their opinions with others. Sign up. Registered buzz agents often get to be the first to learn about and try out new products.
A similar site that waxes and wanes is ThisNext.com, which can help you spot trends through tapping into shop-casting: a network of people podcasting about their shopping experiences and picking products they’re willing to recommend to others. In addition to shopping-focused websites, more great info about new products and new retail concepts can be found in myriad free eNewsletters broadcast by a variety of sources like malls (including MallofAmerica.com, which has a 100+ specialty retail tenants), big-name retailers (NeimanMarcus.com, BergdorfGoodman.com, Gap.com, etc.) and retail trade magazines (including SRR, which publishes its free eNewsletter, SRR Snapshot every Wednesday; you can sign up at SpecialtyRetail.com).
Get Out There!
The value of hitting the trade show and event circuit can’t be overestimated. You can find dozens—sometimes hundreds—of interesting new products at local and regional trade shows, school and town fairs, flea markets, amusement parks and festivals. Also check out any regional event spaces near you—one I really like is The Big E in West Springfield, MA (TheBigE.com), but you can find others near you online.
A whole new generation of products that have the potential for explosive retail growth is coming from the “underground”—small, mostly women-owned entrepreneurial businesses usually run from home. Many have gotten big enough to wholesale, and for those who haven’t, you might be their first wholesale account, giving you exclusivity. The companies offering these unique new products are rarely talked about at conferences or seen at trade shows, but they often have loyal and growing customer bases. Sometimes you can find them at small events like local or regional fairs. Sometimes you can find them online, mentioned on message boards or social networking sites. Sometimes a friend or colleague will comment about an interesting new company they found out about. If you keep your eyes and ears open, attend local events and do a little digging around online, chances are you’ll come across at least one of these emerging exciting new entrepreneurial businesses with a great new product you haven’t seen anywhere else.
Hit the Road.
Traveling to other countries for work and/or pleasure is about so much more than sightseeing: Travel can be a prospecting paradise. Give your business cards out to merchants and manufacturers wherever you find them—whether you’re strolling the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, checking out the Delhi Haat bizarre in India, staying at a beach resort in the Caribbean or visiting our border neighbors Mexico and Canada. Of course, domestic travel can be just as valuable, giving you exposure to regional trends and products you might want to bring back home.
In the end, if you want to find the hottest new products, you need to constantly monitor the market to see how current trends are changing, and scout out what’s emerging on the horizon. Be diligent about exploring and mining as many sources as you can—keeping those clips as you go—and you just might find that you have a great read on “the next big thing” that takes your company to the next level.