It’s My Party

Just as birthdays come and go each year, so do the popular birthday trends. While it’s always a safe bet to stock generic celebratory product—balloons, solid color party ware, designs with cakes and confetti — knowing what the latest and greatest trends are can guarantee your sales age to perfection.

Party & Paper Retailer talked with Randy Smith of Party Express from Hallmark about what to expect in the coming year.

Young in Years
With children, licenses continue to rule. Kids are either the direct decider or a heavy influencer on their party theme. To that end, licensed properties have become a natural part of their lifestyle, from the top TV shows and DVDs they watch at home to the movies they go see and the video games they play.

When you layer on that these licenses are also on the clothes that they wear during day, the sleepwear they use at night and the way they decorate their rooms, you can quickly see where licenses become all consuming for them. So, when it comes time to have that “one-day-a-year” birthday celebration that’s all about them, the kids tend to select the licenses that are all about their world.

Given birthday parties include the guest of honor’s close circle of friends and/or schoolmates, there’s also the pressure of delivering a “cool” party to their peers. Licenses have the fun content that can do that in spades.

There’s a wave of major properties coming forward that should capture the attention and imagination of boys and girls for next several years including “Toy Story 3,” Marvel’s Avenger super hero team (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America), Disney Princesses, DC Comics super heroes (Green Lantern, Batman), etc.

A subset of trends within the general headline of growing licenses would include the emergence of very strong girl properties. Just a few short years ago, the girls category tended to be split between a few lead properties and generics that incorporated classic girl icons like butterflies, rainbows, horses, flowers, etc. Now that market has moved to licenses like Tinker Bell (Disney Fairies) and Hannah Montana.

A second subset trend is the overlay of licenses onto classic party themes. The perfect combination of these two factors can generally result in dynamic retail sales. For example, Disney Princess overlaid on top of classic the princess party theme; Hannah Montana overlaid on top of classic rock star/fantasy theme; Disney Cars overlaid on top of classic race car party theme; Spider-Man or Batman overlaid on top of classic super hero party theme; Star Wars overlaid on top of classic space party theme, etc.

Young at Heart
The adult birthday market has traditionally been divided between “over-the-hill” and milestone themes and generic celebratory partyware that simply calls out “Happy Birthday.” This market has shifted in two significant ways.

First, given the aging Baby Boom population, turning 50 or 60 years old isn’t as “old” as it used to be. So, the classic “over-the-hill” gag, editorial and visual items don’t play as strong as they once did. People are much more into positive aging and want to celebrate how young they feel, how good they’re still looking, etc.

The second shift is a move away from the generic aspect of “Happy Birthday” to more personalization around the guest of honor. People are much more about celebrating who the guest of honor is and how well the host and guest know them, so they’re looking for designs and ideas that will celebrate the guest of honor’s personality and/or uniqueness.

One example of this trend is female birthdays. No longer is mom relegating to just having her celebration be something her husband and kids pulled together as an afterthought. Now she might have two parties — one with family and the other with close girlfriends that celebrate her unique interests. So, when thinking themes, think fun that is reflective of the guest.

Originally posted Friday, Apr. 2, 2010