Listen up all you trendwatchers-the following "fads" go far beyond your typical short-lived craze. (In fact, we called some of 'em in the past and they're still hot.) Read on for the latest on what's hot-from the well-established (think herbal remedies) to the extreme (boot camp, anyone?).
The Sooner, The Better
Quick cash, fast food, drive-thru, speed service-call it what you will, but when customers want it, you'd better provide it immediately. Consumers are placing more importance than ever on time and convenience. No longer are time and money being calculated in the traditional sense, as money saved by consumers driving out of their way to save a buck, but rather as minutes spent away from the family. The Families & Work Institute reveals 70 percent of parents feel they don't spend enough time with their children and have less time for personal activities. If you can provide customers with a timesaving option, they'll pay for it. This translates into anything from delivery services and house calls to drive-thru windows and easy-access express locations, especially for service establishments that are traditionally inconvenient, such as pharmacies and dry cleaners. Some of the more unusual convenient services we've seen? How about drive-thru viewing at a Compton, California, mortuary or a scooper service for pets' lawn deposits?
One sure bet on the convenience angle is helping clients organize their busy lives. Check out two current hot businesses: concierge services and personal chef. Another growing profession is personal organizers; membership in the National Association of Professional Organizers has climbed from about 800 members in 1996 to close to 1,100 today.
Cheers of "Go team!" from pompom-sporting girls are conspicuously absent when those same girls are screaming "Slaughter 'em!" from the bench or the dugout. Last year, we reported a significant increase in women's sports, and one group has been particularly influenced by such factors as the WNBA and the new influx of female sports heroines: school-aged girls. More girls are involved in team sports than ever. One oft-quoted statistic from the Women's Sports Foundation cites that in the early 1970s, only one in 27 girls was involved in a high school team sport. By 1996, that number had increased to one in three. "Now, young girls grow up expecting to participate," says Sandi Bittler, director of women's sports marketing for Nike, which has a girls-only Web site called Girls in the Game.
However, this niche is hardly filled to date. Take note, entrepreneurs: When Mary Tenety and Lori Schmid could find only ill-fitting unisex and boy's sports apparel and gear for their athletic daughters, they started The Female Athlete, a thrice-yearly catalog aimed at female athletes aged 8 to 23 that provides the gear needed to compete and motivational products that celebrate girls. You go, girls.
Girls' Favorite Sports
2. Track and field
Source: The National Federation of State High School Associations
Herb's The Word
Who says money doesn't grow on trees? The herbal products industry might tend to disagree. As consumer acceptance of natural treatments pushes sales of herbal supplements through the roof, this alternative-therapy market just keeps spreading into the mainstream. Wal-Mart and Bayer Corp. have launched their own herbal supplement lines, physicians are recommending herbal supplements as inexpensive alternative remedies, and even kids and pets are receiving herbal treatments. "This is coming from the consumer," says Mark Blumenthal, founder of the American Botanical Council. "It's not like one day the medical profession woke up and smelled the herbal tea and realized there were some gentle, safe, well-researched, low-cost herbal medicines available."
So what are the newest trends in this ever-hot industry? Maureen Rogers, director of the Herb Growing and Marketing Network, points to herbal pet treatments, specialty remedies for women and kids, kava kava and St. John's wort. Rogers says the herbs to watch for are Chinese, Indian and South American herbs, as well as the cultivation of nearly extinct or endangered herbs usually harvested in the wild, like goldenseal, ginseng and slippery elm.
1. Echinacea ($310 million)
2. Ginseng ($270 million)
3. Gingko biloba ($240 million)
4. Garlic ($200 million)
5. St. John's wort ($200 million)
Note: This herb's sales grew an astronomical 1,900% from 1995 to 1997.
6. Goldenseal ($150 million)
7. Saw palmetto ($130 million)
8. Aloe ($120 million)
9. Cat's claw ($90 million)
10. Astragalus ($80 million)
Source: Nutrition Business Journal
American Botanical Council, P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, http://www.herbalgram.com
The Female Athlete, (516) 225-5882, fax: (516) 225-5809
Herb Growing and Marketing Network, (717) 393-3295, http://www.herbworld.com
National Association of Professional Organizers, (512) 206-0151, http://www.napo.net