Black Swan events like the COVID-19 pandemic won’t cause current mega trends to disappear, but there will be a number of shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviors to watch for, Kate Usher, trend consultant for Trend Bible, told the International Housewares Association (IHA). Usher was scheduled to speak about housewares trends in 2021 at The Inspired Home Show that was to be held in Chicago in March.
After the show was canceled amid concerns over Covid-19, Usher recorded a webinar with presentation highlights, and spoke with IHA about trend lifecycles, short-term consumer shifts and opportunities for housewares industry professionals. The webinar is available here.
“There is no rulebook for the life of a trend. They are as elusive and fluid as the human beings who circulate them,” said Usher. “As forecasters, it’s our job to constantly track the pace of change — for every trend we have forecasted — and to spot deviations ahead of time.”
With that said, Usher emphasized that mega trends, including current ones like sustainability, aging population and urbanization, rarely disappear in the face of Black Swan events. These trends are major shifts which typically have relevance for at least a decade.
“However, how we respond to these mega trends day-to-day and year-to-year is subject to the specific scenario we find ourselves in and where our priorities lie,” she explained.
Take, for instance, the current sustainability trend, which has resulted in more ethical purchasing in recent years. During the current pandemic, some consumers who previously made purchasing choices based on ethical concerns may need to opt for cheaper and less environmentally friendly products as they face economic hardship.
“That does not mean, however, that the trend will not return stronger than ever once the crisis is over,” says Usher. “It’s a temporary blip.”
Another trend the staff at Trend Bible expects to slow down during and possibly after the crisis is the quest for convenience.
“Householders are rediscovering the value in doing things more slowly, more deliberately and more thoroughly during lockdown,” Usher explained. “Sales of flour are going through the roof as consumers turn to baking as a therapeutic domestic task, and many are actually finding enjoyment and stress relief in washing the dishes. Convenience is no longer the goal; in fact, the more inconvenient options hold more appeal.”
This shift has major implications for many housewares brands who have long operated on a convenience-first model.
Usher’s advice for housewares industry professionals looking to navigate trends in the short-term? Think about the immediate future — 3-6 months ahead — and focus on their customers’ main concerns while adjusting to life at home.
“How can (you) support and connect with customers through the pandemic?” said Usher. “This might not be about selling products but building connections with people. During time of uncertainty, the brands who resonate with our need for comfort, security and authenticity will be the ones we turn back to once we have the ability to do so.”
Moving to 2021, Usher identified four key trends. They are:
Before the current pandemic, there had been a significant increase in the number of people socializing and entertaining at home. JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), which celebrates life’s ordinary moments, is an increasingly popular antidote to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), which fueled being part of big social gatherings, travel and flashy experiences on social media for years. This will certainly continue post-crisis as people seek to reconnect with small groups of people in real life.
Many fashion brands are moving into the home interiors market, which has made personalizing your home is more accessible than ever before. “There’s a big shift from wanting to blend in to ‘look at me’,” said Usher. As a result, bolder color is becoming increasingly popular for homes and housewares.
Many consumers will continue to look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint. Glass jars will become even more popular as a durable storage option, but also for their ability to seal in food freshness and reduce food waste.
The “Joy of Clean and Tidy” trend will only increase as consumers “seek to regain some control in their busy and chaotic lives,” Usher said. She predicts many will take preventative measures to improve indoor air quality and minimize toxicity through environmentally friendly textiles, surfaces and cleaning products.
When Trend Bible puts together “stories” for its seasonal trend books, the agency is careful to incorporate many different trends into each one. That way, if there is an unexpected shift in a trend due to an unforeseen circumstance, the over-arching vision remains strong. In her webinar, Usher previewed a story from their Spring/Summer 2021 Trend Book called “Urban Retreat.”
“As urbanization continues across the globe, the role of cities and our place within them is being reconsidered,” she said. “This whole story is driven by a desire to create homes that create better ways of living in busy urban epicenters.”
This vision is driven by the urbanization and sustainability mega-trends, as well as a growing interest in Latin America, brutalist architecture and veganism. Themes include sculpture, geometric patterns and images of nature in the city.
The color palette is a warm, neutral one featuring earthy tones and cool greens along with a charcoal gray, brick red and deep green for contrast. Design elements may include plant-based materials like pineapple skin, corn husks and wood chips; Aztec-inspired patterns and motifs; blocky and primitive forms; woven sisal designs; architecture-inspired themes; and textures that echo volcanic ash and lava stone.
Usher’s webinar is free and can be accessed here. Additional education sessions — on topics including branding, e-commerce, smart home and sustainability — that would have taken place at the show can also be accessed on that page.
For more information about the show’s displays, including The New Product Showcase, Trending Today, Inventors’ Corner and the IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) for product design, visit the website. To learn about new products that were to be at the Show, visit the Show’s online directory, Housewares Connect 365 at Housewares.org/housewaresconnect365, and select “Featured New Products for Media & Buyers.”