Top Trends for 2012
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's time for trends!
While I have no super powers of my own to can predict what will be a hit or a miss on store shelves this coming year, I do have it on good authority that sweets will remain strong and the presence of various superheroes will make itself known. Add in a splash of trendy color, an increased online presence and a feather in your cap, and you should be set for a successful 2012.
Superheroes will have a major presence on the big screen in 2012, which means they will have a major presence in party stores in the form of costumes and party goods.
Sony will reboot the Spider-Man franchise with "The Amazing Spider-Man," and Nicholas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in February.
In July, Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and Thor will unite for "The Avengers," what some media outlets are calling the biggest superhero movie of 2012, if not the biggest of all time. In addition, Christian Bale will reprise his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the third and final Batman movie in Nolan's trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises," and a new Superman movie is expected during the 2012 holiday season.
Money is still tight for most people, and whether it's costumes or parties, customers will be looking to do more things themselves in an effort to cut costs. That doesn't mean that retailers are cut out of the mix, but rather that they should add in new products to help customers out. This can mean more DIY party packs and invitations or stocking up on costume accessories to help them complete their look.
"Most retailers told us that accessories continue to sell well as the total available dollars a customer is willing to spend are limited," said Warren Berkowitz of Forum Novelties. "We are unveiling at least six new accessory categories for 2012 that will stand on their own, as well as supplement existing categories. Sexy sailor, firewoman, renaissance, colonial, vintage Hollywood and lady clown are all new comprehensive additions to our already well accepted boutique categories."
According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, the bright trend will continue to play throughout all product lines. It is upbeat and fun and with the economy still so up and down, people are looking to color, as it is an easy way to inject some brightness and levity to the more serious atmosphere.
They're also seeing the interaction of metallics against the deeper shades, as metallics have become a part of everyday life and bring some sparkle. When you look at weddings, metallics are a basic, especially as they play against black. While silver is the No. 1 metallic shade, they're seeing gold creeping back up as luxury - perceived or real - makes a come back.
Vows and Value
Emily Schmiel of Carlson Craft shared that in general, the look for weddings is for simple, yet elegant invitations made with light-catching shimmer papers.
Seal 'n Send invitations are perfect for bridal couples with a smaller budget, and pocket invitations - where a pocket folder holds the invite and all the other parts of the ensemble i.e. reception card, direction card, accommodations card, respond card and envelope - will continue to be popular.
"For Carlson Craft, a new revamped Simple But Elegant album will include classic looking wedding invitation ensembles in natural tones, many with elegant layers, pockets or wraps and some with rhinestones," Schmiel said. "In addition, a new Flower Wedding Invitations album will includes classic, yet affordable invitations with a section for destination weddings and a section that offers autumn inspired invitations with falling leaves and autumn colors."
A great way to upsell? Once brides have purchased their invitations, ask if they have gifts for their attendants, personalized napkins or all the accessory items needed for their ceremony and reception.
Social media isn't a trend, but rather a requirement for those looking to remain relevant. Lucky for retailers, it's also the simplest and least expensive form of marketing. Amy Veltman of It's My Party estimates she spends four to five hours a week doing Facebook-related work, and the payoff is clear.
"Facebook is very important to the way we do our business," Veltman said. "It keeps current customers updated on the different bouquets, products and services that we provide. It reaches new customers because our current customers share our links with their friends, and the cost for us is $0."
Veltman said their best Facebook promotions are the "Out The Door!" videos. Every Saturday, they post a video showcasing some of the projects going out the door on that day.
"We have had so many new customers come to our store because they found us on YouTube," Veltman said. "It's a low quality video clip with terrible acting, singing and dancing, but it's made us local celebrities and customers have told us they never miss a single episode."
They also ask viewers a question about the most recent "Out The Door" video, and the first responder gets a prize such as a column or gift in a balloon.
"It's a great in-store marketing tool," Veltman said. "We tell customers to be sure to find us on Facebook so that they can watch our video on Saturday and win free prizes."
In addition to social media, the next big thing in marketing appears to be QR (Quick-Response) codes.
"We see them everywhere, from packaging and receipts, to advertisements and other marketing materials," said Lisa Bennett, product management director for Pioneer Balloon Co. "These codes allow businesses to add an interactive element to traditional advertising, and they can be created by a variety of online code programs. When a customer ‘scans' a QR code with their Smart Phone, they're taken directly to a website, video or even a coupon offer. If used effectively, QR codes can be a valuable component of a retailer's marketing plan."
According to Bennett, when it comes to balloons, checks, plaids, polka dots and paisleys are hot and plan on staying that way. Complementing these patterns within paperware, décor items and balloons will add an extra dimension to the theme and make any party setting much more exciting.
"Layered patterns will also be very popular in social expressions and party products, and we are just starting to see the potential this trend has within the industry," Bennett said. "Theme parties have become more general than specific. For example, we are seeing parties move away from Luau and Fiesta, and moving toward a general 'Tropical' or 'Fun in the Sun' party, where they could virtually be anywhere just relaxing."
Other trends include using nature as inspiration, but adding a modern twist with unusual textures, colors or finishes for an element of surprise. Anything zebra-related is hot right now, and the "Zany Zebra" joins the new Qualatex animal line-up for 2012.
"The animal head Microfoil shapes that debuted in 2011 have made a great impression on retailers and consumers, so we've added the most requested animal to join the series," Bennett said. "Retailers should have fun with their displays and really show customers how they can take their parties to the next level with the mix-and-match patterns that will be available."
A Wise Choice
In best-selling fiction, the owl is Harry Potter's trusted pet and intelligence agent, but owls are swooping in from everywhere. Their appeal is relatively gender and age neutral, as young and old, male and female are getting in on this trend as the icon is being seen on everything from party goods and balloons to cards, gifts and costumes.
"Critters and florals provide a quiet calm that we all need in our active lives," said Jennifer Tatham of Night Owl Paper Goods. "Owls keep getting more playful and versatile every year, and this year we're adding more gift products such as recipe books and picture frames to the Night Owl Paper Goods line."
To go along with the avian theme, the popularity of feathers - whether as a pattern or an accessory to a gift, a card or a costume - will continue to take flight in 2012.
By Abby Heugel