Hot Trends for 2005

Snobs, Life Caching & Uniqueness

The Third Place

While it's a no-brainer that teens ditch their parents as often as possible, many young adults are also in the same boat. With 56 percent of men and 43 percent of women aged 18 to 24 still living at home, according to the 2000 Census, an escape from the house is more a necessity than a luxury. Businesses that position themselves as what Starbucks' Howard Schultz calls "third places" (home and work are the first two places) may become popular destinations.

Starbucks and Barnes & Noble have built their businesses around providing customers a comfortable environment to wile away the hours. Wi-Fi has been a huge advantage in drawing in students, businesspeople and home-office dwellers; and smart businesses like Panera Bread tout this by including it in their location search on their websites (as does Starbucks) and by offering information in their stores.

Other big businesses are trying to get in on this act, too. McDonald's is building a flagship restaurant in Chicago, slated to open in 2005, that will feature wireless access and will encourage customers to hang around in a relaxed atmosphere. Coca-Cola is targeting teens with its new Red Lounges-mall-based stores designed to let teens learn about new music, games and movies . . . while they drink lots of Coke.

It's no longer wise to get people in and out of your business as quickly as possible. Give them a reason to stay, and you'll also give them a reason to come back.

Snobization

Middle-class Americans are turning into a bunch of snobs. Premium jeans labels like Diesel and Miss Sixty are showing up on small-town derrières. Day spas, once considered a luxury, are popping up all over the place. And don't get us started again about food connoisseurs.

Starbucks is often cited as the originator of what Reinier Evers, founder of trend agency Trendwatching.com, calls "snobmoddities": everyday items that have been turned into chic, luxury must-haves. These items aren't always expensive. Instead, says Evers, they're small indulgences. "[These purchases] are only mind-blowing compared to some of the prices we're still used to from back in the day."

You can see accessible luxuries at Target with Todd Oldham dorm décor and Michael Graves sleek kitchenware. And often, people wear a $15 shirt so they can afford a pair of $100 jeans.

"We live in a consumption society and a meritocracy," says Evers. "Thus our identity is shaped by the things we consume. So the more luxury items we can purchase and show the rest of the world, the higher we rank in society."

The $400 billion luxury market is expected to grow 15 percent per year, according to strategy and management consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group, until it hits $1 trillion in 2010. Figure out how you can repurpose your products and services in a luxurious yet mostly affordable fashion, and you could be the next to cash in on this skyrocketing market.

Uniqueness

Being unique is a tough gig these days. Mass production, large chains and the quest for convenience often dictate uniformity. But even though it takes a little more work, consumers are shopping niche stores, looking for customizable options, and wearing their interests and beliefs on their sleeves. No one industry explores this consumer quirk more than T-shirt designers. While major chains are still selling pseudo-vintage tees, people looking to "outcool" their friends are hunting for truly unique items: overtly political tees; designs from favorite bloggers from CafePress.com; remixed designer tees that are ripped up, laced up and bejeweled; religious designs, especially Judaica; and truly vintage wear from eBay. While apparel sales fell 5.1 percent last year, according to market research firm The NPD Group, T-shirt sales rose 2.2 percent, making up $17 billion in a $166 billion market.

Consumers desiring uniqueness are closely related to those seeking accessible luxury and authenticity in their wares. Part of the fun of ordering an expensive bottle of vinegar from a regional producer is knowing you'll wow your friends at your next dinner party. It's the cachet of being an early adopter, combined with the need to never be wearing the same outfit as someone else at a party. In a world of big-box retailers, it's up to the entrepreneur to fill this need.

Life Caching

Today's boomers and seniors cherish the grainy super-8 films, fading Polaroids and locked diaries of their childhoods. But future generations will instead hoard memory cards full of blog entries, digital photos and the first websites they ever built. As we learn to click to save every moment of our lives, data will become the stuff that memories are made of. "Life caching will become a given," says Reinier Evers, whose company coined the term. "Consumers will come to expect [that] they can relive every experience they've ever had and have instant access to any life collection they've ever built."

Memory making has been big business for a while. Scrapbooking has been one of the hottest trends in recent years-the $2.5 billion industry doubled since 2001, according to the Hobby Industry Association, and is still growing. But businesses that can provide creative solutions to both physical and digital life caching are the ones that stand to gain from this trend. One million Memory Maker Photo Bracelets (a bracelet that wearers can insert several photos into) were sold in six months. MyPublisher.com allows users to create coffee-table books from their digital photos. Nokia's Lifeblog service lets users download and arrange their cell-phone-created content-messages, photos, videos, notes and audio clips.

"Entrepreneurs can offer this space [for life caching], taking on the gatekeeper role," explains Evers. "On a grander scale, start thinking about how you can provide consumers with the means to capture everything. This includes entrepreneurs who already offer 'experiences.' What are you doing to help [customers] capture and store these experiences?"

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