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Measuring trends: keep up or miss out

In-store data can show retailers the next emerging trends, providing they know where to look. It’s a skill that’s worth learning, even if it might seem like a chore in the beginning. DAVID BROWN reports.

These days, business is all about big data; the industry is inundated with hordes of information that was never available to retailers from previous generations.

Although this information can be invaluable for its ability to shape the decision-making process, the sheer quantity of it might overwhelm retailers.

Using the information that comes from a POS system can be a helpful way of spotting the trends a business is encountering, enabling that business to react ahead of competition.

The fashion industries are experts at trend spotting; top designers will spend thousands of dollars sending experts all over the world to find trends.

It’s said that the fashion industry is capable of predicting what styles consumers want to wear before consumers even know it!

This early insight is essential due to the constantly changing nature of their product.

"Storeowners can’t manage what they’re not measuring. It’s difficult to spot trends using only bad data and impossible to spot trends with no data"

Although aspects of the jewellery industry’s product lines are consistent year-to-year – diamond ring designs don’t change as quickly as clothing choices – there are still trends that shape what customers like to buy and these change over time.

How does trend spotting work for a business owner? The amount of information available in the average store might be surprising, especially when this information can help retailers to spot current and upcoming trends in their businesses.

From sales reports to inventory-ageing and stock-imbalance statistics, there is a sumptuous array of reports that can improve a retailer’s ability to spot trends.

So much information, in fact, that those retailers who aren’t spotting trends are possibly not using their data effectively.

A deep curiosity is necessary for any owner who wants to play the role of trend spotter but it’s a skill that doesn’t come easily to everyone. Here are some common mistakes to be avoided to ensure the best possible chances of spotting trends early on.

Lack of a goal

It’s one thing to look at a line on a graph and say, “Hmm, this seems to have changed course slightly.” It’s another to say, “This was expected to move toward 25 per cent and it’s only at 15 per cent.”

Having an expectation makes it easier to identify when a trend has changed. This is especially important in the case of negative movements; retailers who don’t recognise these might be late to make stock changes, costing them time and money.

If it’s a positive trend that is overlooked, retailers might record opportunity costs because they didn’t capitalise immediately upon emerging styles.

Bad information

Storeowners can’t manage what they’re not measuring. It’s difficult to spot trends using only bad data – and impossible to spot trends with no data.

Make a commitment to getting the data you need to know how the business is doing on all fronts and then create a roadmap to establish a reliable stream of information.

Determine the necessary reports that will provide the business with the key information it needs.

Wearing blinkers

All retailers have different orientations to life and this reflects in the expectations they set their businesses. These expectations can create biases that affect the way retailers interpret and/or pick up on trends.

What biases might you bring to the way you interpret your data? Are you an optimistic person?

If so, you may want to complement that perspective with someone who has a different view so that you are looking for trends with a well-rounded perspective.

After all, it’s very difficult to see that which you are not seeking.

Trend spotting should be a part of every store’s employee feedback loop. Regularly collecting information from the sales team can provide valuable feedback into what customers are buying and what items no longer interest them.

Combining data with anecdotal opinions from the sales floor can help businesses to stay ahead of the competition and keep product lines on trend for much longer.

Retailers that can avoid the mistakes above and bring a healthy dose of curiosity to big data will be amazed by what they uncover about their businesses.

Stores already have access to a mine of data that will provide owners with the answers they need.

David Brown

Contributor • Retail Edge Consultants

David Brown is co-founder and business mentor with Retail Edge Consultants. Learn more:

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