Whether you're looking for a niche or trying to stay ahead of the competition, keeping an eye on trends makes a vital difference to your bottom line. "There's a certain progression that takes place," explains longtime trend watcher Art Siemering, publisher of Trend/Wire newsletter. "Trends often start in large metropolitan centers, then gravitate to markets in the heartland."
Siemering's advice for keeping your finger on the pulse of the buying public:
Who: What's going on with youth is extremely influential to many businesses, he says, but don't ignore baby boomers. "One [boomer] turns 50 every seven seconds," he says. "They're still going to have a big impact."
What: Scan print, broadcast and Internet sources on a regular basis. "Watch not only what's being written about," says Siemering, "but what's being advertised."
Where: "The best places [to study trends] are what I call `the glamour districts,' places where there's a lot of foot traffic and stylish stores or night life in a compact area," says Siemering.
How: Be open-minded. "Every consumer wants just a little `edge,' " Siemering says. Can you give it to them?
Why: To succeed. "You can't keep selling the same merchandise," he says. "You've got to stay ahead of the curve."