Flying High

Flying High

What you can expect to see in balloons for the year ahead

By Abby Heugel, Managing Editor 

With recordable options and innovative materials, balloons and accessories are getting more high-tech these days. However, today’s busy customer is looking for anything that simplifies the shopping experience and allows them to get what they need when they need it.

Greg Shakley of Worthington Cylinders predicted there will be a continued preference toward prepackaged options, such as balloons and helium-filled tanks in one purchase, as well as easy-to-create theme ideas and inexpensive materials for at-home parties, while Robin Oxley of Anagram said that consumers will be loyal to retailers that offer quick solutions and great service.

“The steps for success in 2011 remain the same — inflate, inflate, inflate and service, service, service,” Oxley said. “Entice customers with inflated ready-to-go balloon bouquets and other specialty balloons such as holographic, clear film and singing balloons.”

What does this mean for retailers? Party & Paper asked some balloon pros for tips and tricks to keep sales soaring into 2011.

What themes can we expect?
Lisa Bennett
Pioneer Balloon Co.
The ’60s theme of “Love and Peace” is building with the re-occurrence of peace signs and tie-dye in the fashion world. Under the Sea and Caribbean themes are coming back to freshen the popular Luau trends from the last few years. Most of all, we see people decorating with themes that are casual, colorful and fun, but not difficult to execute.

Retailers will also see steady interest in pop culture-related themes. For the younger demographic, this could be TV or movie-themed parties like Harry Potter and Smurfs, which are set to release new editions in 2011.
Popular themes for adults might be “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which will release a new movie in 2011, or ongoing interest in 2010 releases like “Twilight” or “Sex and the City.”

Stephen Swartz
U.S. Balloon Co.
With the release of vampire-based television shows and movies, we’re seeing more of an interest in vampire theme parties. Expect vampires to be one of the biggest Halloween costumes next year, too. We’re also seeing a greater interest in dark humor – adults throwing anti-Valentine’s Day parties and purchasing gray and black solid color balloons to go with it.

What licenses will be hot?
At the end of 2010, retailers have another opportunity to wrap up the year with increased licensed character balloon sales by tapping in to the excitement of the DVD releases of “Toy Story 3” and “Iron Man 2” and the theatrical release of Disney’s newest princess movie “Tangled.”  It also offers retailers the ability to leverage hot licensed characters for the holiday season, such as those mentioned, followed by Disney Princesses, the evergreen Cars, Tinker Bell/fairies, Transformers, Spider-Man, Dora, Sponge Bob, Elmo and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Many are saying that 2011 will be the year of the sequels, with many popular movies coming out with a new installment or even a remake of an older version. Some examples are the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” (May 2011); “Harry Potter,” “Captain America” and “Winnie the Pooh” (July 2011); and “Smurfs” (August 2011).

We’re also seeing new licenses emerge from those classics to take kids through the next generation of licensing fun. One example is Angel Cat Sugar (from the creator of Hello Kitty), who is growing rapidly in popularity for young girls and in the tween market.

What are the popular colors and styles?
Plaid patterns that came back last year in fashion and then home décor are now coming out in new balloon styles. Also, pink/gray and lime green/gray are hot color combinations. Bright vibrant orange is likely next on the must-have color list for balloons.

Boho, paisley and tattoo-inspired art, as well as hippy patchwork, will remain a popular art style and shape format. The woodland creature trend featuring deer, squirrels, owls, raccoons and bears is also going strong, whether on greeting cards, clothing or home décor — they’re everywhere you look, including balloons.  

We’re seeing bolder blues and pinks in the baby section, with the addition of browns, lime greens and brighter yellows. The hottest new assortments for all ages consist of pairing browns with hot pinks, electric blues, oranges, yellows, lime greens and brilliant purples. Patterns and textures (like polka dots or zebra skin) on neon and other bright colors are hot right now, as well as mixing and matching those patterns and colors.

Vibrant colors from nature — especially all shades of green — are appearing everywhere within a variety of palettes. Coral and tropical colors are also strong.

Any new innovations?
For 2011, Anagram’s presents Sing-a-Tune singing and recordable balloons, followed by our new holographic sparkles film that gives off brilliant spectrums of color and our clearly metallic film that looks as though the clear film has been stamped. However, no matter what innovation is introduced to the category, manufacturers have to rely on retailers to generate consumer awareness. Retailers must remember — innovation means inflation required for customer acquisition.

The focus will be on giving the consumer more freedom to plan his or her party at home. This means providing fresh ideas within the retail store and guidance as to how the customer can create the theme at home.

Consumers are looking for new ways to incorporate excitement and current trends into their celebrations without high prices. Taking an 18-inch balloon and creating a dynamic new shape that works well with existing balloons gives retailers and consumers a fresh and exciting new look without those higher prices. The new Diamond Expressions line from Pioneer is new and different and works well in bouquets, decor and delivery items. These trendy balloons feature up-do-date expressions that identify with today's culture.

Stretchy plastic Bubble Balloons are the latest innovation from Pioneer, and we’re taking it to the next level with Double Bubbles that feature another plastic balloon within the stretchy Bubble for a 3-D advantage over other balloons.

Do you have any display tips?
The best display concept is to cluster balloons by sentiments and theme, which makes it easy for customers to buy the balloons they need in a hurry. When balloons are placed randomly around the store or loaded into a ceiling corral, customers have to search for what they want.  By doing this, the buying decision just became too complicated and time consuming so they simply give up, resulting in lost sales for the store. 

Another display tip worth mentioning is to not only to think about ways to make it easy for the customer to buy balloons, but to make it easy for the customer to get balloons to their final destination.  Weights that allow the ribbon to be rewound or secured not only stop balloons from twirling around and tangling in the store, but also remove the hassle factor of transporting balloons.

To capture the consumer’s attention, large shape balloons must be showcased either on a wall or inflated and placed in clusters. It’s clear that consumers will buy what they can see and can’t experience how fun and interesting large shape balloons are just by looking at a package.

It’s best to create each party theme idea visually and ensure that products in the display are available for purchase within your store, making sure you offer ideas for recreating the decorations at home via packaged items or kits. If your displays have intricate balloon bouquets or linking balloons or columns, make sure someone in the store is available to demonstrate the process to customers. They will be more likely to recreate the look if they can buy everything in one spot, and if they fully understand how to execute the design.

Originally posted Friday, Jul. 30, 2010