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Fall 2007 TrendSpotting

Bag It!

Like any product, gift bags have to give the consumer a reason to buy, so manufacturers have stepped up their efforts to differentiate their bags from others on the market. Yakety Sak, “The Bag that Talks Back,” includes a patent-pending sound module that plays music or a custom voice message when opened. Lucky Crow is a line of attractive gift bags targeted to eco-minded consumers (a group that’s growing bigger every day), with fabric gift bags “designed to be re-gifted, recycled and reused.”

Change is Good

Developers have broken ground on Tampines 1, a 381,000-square-foot mall in Singapore that will require its retail tenants to refresh their concepts every six months. Tenants will refresh on a rotating basis so the mall offers shoppers at least one new concept every month. The center is scheduled to open in 2009. Here in New York, GrandOpening is a 350-square- foot space that reinvents itself every three months. Recently it’s served as exhibit space for a proposed eco-community west of the city, then morphed into a ping-pong parlor, Pong, where the one standard-size table could be rented in 20-minute or 1-hour blocks, complete with bleachers for onlookers and the tech equipment necessary for players to video their play and post it on YouTube.

Going Green In June

Black Oak Associates announced it’s planning Maryland’s “first green retail center,” an 83,000 square foot, $20 million lifestyle center that will include drought-resistant plants and a cistern to capture rainwater. Designed to “lessen the impact on the environment, save money for tenants and create a healthy place to work and shop,” Main Street Eldersburg has no opening date as yet. Separately, CB Richard Ellis announced in May its plans to become carbon-neutral by 2010. CBRE, named in September as the 33rd fastest-growing company in the US according to Forbes magazine, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm (based on ’06 revenues), with more than 24,000 employees and 300 offices nationwide.

New Personalization Turnkey

Rhinestone Ruby has announced a new turnkey cart or kiosk start-up package that includes start-up inventory, signage, one-on-one customer service and marketing materials. The company offers shoppers the chance to personalize a wide selection of flip-flops, hats, jewelry, key rings and even pet accessories, with rhinestone-studded letters, to spell out any message the customer desires. Buyers can also choose from hundreds of dangling charms and symbols to make their own custom products. Owner Lisa Kozinn started wholesaling her new line four years ago and has a busy retail website. Shoppers love the concept because they can create completely original products that no one else has, Kozinn says, adding that she introduces new, trendy products every season.

Prepaid Debit Cards Taking Off

Market research firm Packaged Facts estimates that in part thanks to 28 million unbanked consumers (those with no bank accounts), 47 million “underbanked” individuals and 11 million illegal immigrants who need banking alternatives, the market for prepaid debit cards will soar from under $30 billion in 2007 to more than $200 billion by 2011.

Checks Dying Off

Debit cards are now used more than credit cards, according to the American Bankers Association, which recently announced that check use is dropping off so dramatically that the Federal Reserve Board is cutting its number of check-processing centers by more than half from 45 in 2005 to 18 in 2008. Driving the trend is Generation P—those ages 18 to 25—so dubbed because of a preference for plastic and distaste for “old school” payment methods like checks. As that buying segment ages and increases its buying power, experts expect check use to decrease further.

Gift Cards Now Officially “Cool”

The age of acceptance for gift cards as a legitimate holiday gift is here, especially when it comes to younger consumers. According to Comdata, a leading national gift card supplier and transaction processor, a survey of more than 600 college-bound teens revealed that 79 percent considered gift cards their first or second choice. In 2007 teens purchased almost double the number of cards they did in 2006. One in five reloaded their cards, on average with an additional $24. The study said teens considered gift cards a great way to “maintain financial freedom when making purchases.” Market research firm NPD Insights estimates that 60 percent of kids ages 2 to 14 received a gift card last holiday season.

Stress-buster Foods

Retail can be stressful on any given day, but during the peak holiday rush it can be downright exasperating. When you feel the stress rising to unhealthy levels, nutritionists suggest you take a deep breath—and reach for a banana. Or an apricot. Other big-time stress-busters include turkey, fish, tea (especially black teas), fresh or dried fruits and chocolate. Things to avoid include caffeine and alcohol. Sounds like the chocolate martini might be a wash.


#1 Online For the first time, online sales of apparel now exceed online sales of computers, according to Forrester Research, Inc..

Toy of the Year

Zoobies has received Creative Child magazine’s “Toy of the Year” award for its new line of Zoobie Pets, a 3-in-1 product that combines a toy, pillow and blanket. Made of extremely soft coral fleece, the toy’s face is extra-squishy (a key feature for kids), and each pet has a Zulu or Swahili name. Zoobies have only been on the market since February, but have already gained a steady following in boutiques across the US.

Hate Your Work Sometimes? Great News!

According to Psychology Today magazine, “people who are ambivalent about their jobs tend to be more creative.” Why? Because the brain “interprets these mixed emotions as a sign of being in an unusual surrounding and responds by employing creative thinking skills.”

Shoppers Get Their “Om” On

According to market research firm Packaged Facts, sales of “personal therapy sensory devices”—mainly massagers, aromatherapy products and sound-therapy devices—will reach $1.2 billion by 2011, up from $1 billion in 2006. The company reports that “the stress of daily life, increasing medical costs and the advent of complementary and alternative medicine into the mainstream are expected to converge over the next four years, creating a perfect growth platform for personal therapy sensory devices.”

Useful Links

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