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HKTDC Gifts and Premium Fair 2011 Seminar
Edgy Evolution

  Buyers know they will always find quality products at the HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair
  Buyers know they will always find quality
products at the HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts &
Premium Fair
Trendy modifications to existing designs remain dominant, although gifts buyers may start seeking out the new and the different amid improving market prospects, an industry expert believes.

Caroline Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief of NewYork-based online magazine Gifts & Decorative Accessories, also told a “Latest Market Trends of Gifts” seminar at the HKTDC Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair 2011 that the US sector was seeing the rise of tech accessories and small businesses.

“Lately, trends have been more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, developing and evolving as refinements and adaptations of previous or continuing trends rather than setting an entirely new standard,” she said.

“Manufacturers and designers have been playing it safer and more conservatively when it comes to developing new products and concepts.”

The economic climate has not been conducive to risk-taking that trend-forward style statements demand. “Consumers are more conservative and less apt to spend their discretionary cash on something innovative that might not blend with what they already have.”

A recent Gifts & Decorative Accessories Trends & Forecasts survey of gift manufacturers and distributors found that 71% of gifts manufacturers expected their sales in 2011 to be higher than in 2010.

“One of the strengths of the independent gift retailer and smaller gift businesses is their ability to react and adapt to changing market conditions more quickly than their larger competitors,” Ms Kennedy observed. “They are beginning to recover more quickly than the struggling department and mass market stores.”

Thus gift specialty stores were regarded by 55% of the vendors surveyed by her magazine as their most important and fastest growing sales channels.

“It is interesting to note that we have begun to see major brands such as Waterford/Wedgwood and Lenox, who had all but abandoned much of the independent and mom-and-pop gift and specialty retail channel, once again looking to them to broaden their brand reach,” she advised.

Ms Kennedy presented gifts trends in terms of:

  • colour
  • patterns and motifs
  • product
  • lifestyle

Popular premiums abound at the world's largest gift and premium event  
Popular premiums abound at the world's
largest gift and premium event

“Pantone has decreed honeysuckle, a dynamic reddish pink, as the Colour of the Year for 2011,” she noted. “This energetic hue crosses over all categories — apparel and fashion accessories, home fashions and gift, stationery, housewares and even personal care.”

The vibrant hue “pairs well” with the purples that have been so fashionable. “Closely aligned with the preppiest pinks it also is combined with the bright greens, blues and oranges. And of course, with a bow to its tropical roots, it partners well with corals and warm yellows.”

Nevertheless, she added that turquoise, Pantone’s Colour of 2010, has not gone away. “Turquoise is taking on a richer deeper tone.

It was not only a directional hue in spring apparel but also in home accessories. The current iterations of turquoise continue to pair nicely with both the directional bright greens and lipstick reds that we saw last season,” Ms Kennedy advised.

Blue remains a perennial favorite with American customers, deep indigo is on the rise in fashion and so follows into gift and home and a lighter sky blue is also appearing. “There’s also a whole rainbow of bright colour making a splash in the marketplace and the hearts of the consumer,” said Ms Kennedy.

Patterns & Motifs

Ms Kennedy listed several directions:

  • global fusion
  • bygone days
  • peacocks
  • words and letters

“The world has become a much smaller place,” she said, citing modern technology and media and immigration waves. “All this has opened us to the richness in pattern and design other cultures offer.”

Designers are also looking back and re-imagining the looks and re-purposing leftovers of Bygone Days. “This takes two distinct directions: Industrial and Vintage.”

Industrial harkens back to the heyday of American manufacturing, with a nod to modern Steampunk. Hardworking hardware long silenced and abandoned finds new life as home decor.

Vintage, meanwhile, has an element of nostalgia that reinterprets old elements to appeal to a contemporary consumer. “It is one part recycling — taking old parts and turning them into new products such as hotel room napkin rings, old button jewellery and bottle lamps — and one part repurposing — taking old imagery and using it in new ways,” Ms Kennedy said.

An example is the peacock, a regal bird making a comeback after holding court about two years ago. “While birds and butterflies are dominant staple product motifs, the peacock is strutting its stuff once again. Its exotic look and beautiful colours mix well with other design elements in the market — especially turquoise,” said Ms Kennedy. “And it is not just the bird motif but its feathers, real or stylised, that are making design statements in home décor and fashion jewellery.”

Product Trends

She also highlighted the use of words and letters as graphic design elements on everything from home furnishing fabrics to small gift items. “Individual letters are massed in alphabetic designs to create interesting patterns – in some cases, there is a message but for the most part it’s all about the look.”

Ms Kennedy stressed that words and messages are an important in the “inspirational” product trend — a huge category that continues to grow with sentiments of love, motivational quotations and spiritual messages of faith appearing on all product categories — in individual pieces such as figurines as well as coordinated collections.

“But if there is any one category that is truly hot right now, it is tech accessories: iPods, mobile phones, laptops, e-readers, iPads, nanos,” she said.

“We want to have them, use them, personalise them and protect them — fashionably.” Ms Kennedy added that the latest fad this year may be all about “slap” watches.

Lifestyle Trends

Currently, Ms Kennedy said, there is nothing radically new thanks to the economic downturn. “The Coastal/Nautical trend has now become quite mainstream and part of core product offerings,” she observed.

“Although the American consumer is still cautious in her spending, gifting occasions still happen every day of the year. Babies are born; couples get married; people commemorate birthdays, graduations, anniversaries; Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are celebrated … These are the holidays and occasions that drive sales throughout the year and keep what we all do ever moving forward,” she concluded.