What's The Hot...
Animal: Monkey--It's a jungle out there, and monkeys will be taking center stage when it comes to toys and gifts in the year ahead. Watch out as primates like Curious George (whose debut movie starts production this month) swing into the retail market.
Color: Blue--Consumer interest in spa-oriented therapy has brought about a fascination with the color blue. Ranging from the palest aqua to the deepest cobalt, these cool shades promote the tranquility and cleanliness our hectic lifestyles so desperately need.
Flavor: Citrus--The tangy, refreshing, sometimes tart taste of lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges will be the hot flavor exciting taste buds this year. With all the antioxidants in these exhilarating citrus blends, it's no wonder they rate No. 1 as the flavor of the day.
Food: Salad--Portability is a priority among foodies. The popularity of meals-in-a-drink, like the ubiquitous smoothie, and easily accessible items, like the wrap sandwich, is on the rise.
Licensing Products: Star Wars--With the film trilogy's long-anticipated and star-studded prequel scheduled for release on May 21, there's no doubt this sci-fi space legacy will be a sure shot for product licensing.
Toy: Taco Bell Mutt--Yo quiero plush, talking Taco Bell dog? The shivering, taco-craving Chihuahua has shown up in toy form and is expected to be the hottest plaything of the year--so make a run for the nearest toy store.
Scent: Tropical Fruit--Kiwis, mangos and papayas will no longer be relegated to umbrella drinks and tasty sorbets; they're more popular as fragrances these days. Heavy florals are fading, and unisex blends are becoming bland, clearing the way for tropical fruits to steal the spotlight.
Home Decor: Eclectic--The focus for home decor this year is based on the collaboration of non-era-specific pieces. Home furnishings will be rustic and eclectic--so a lamp from the '40s will work beautifully with a lampshade from the '60s.
Sport: Skateboarding--With the opening of elaborate skate parks and the tweaking of traditional boards, it's safe to conclude skateboarding has been legitimized as a true sport. An estimated 6.3 million skaters--a 36 percent increase in participants since 1996--are creating strong evidence this trend is on a roll.
To Your Health!
By Elaine W. Teague
Gone are the days when monitoring your health meant keeping a thermometer in the medicine cabinet and having the occasional showdown with the bathroom scale. The rising temperature of sales in the self-health industry makes it clear: Wellness-oriented consumers are taking an increasing array of health matters into their own hands. What's leading the trend? A billion-dollar boom in self-diagnostic products, with sales predicted to double to $2.8 billion over the next four years, according to international marketing, consulting and training company Frost & Sullivan.
Today's innovative, easy- to-use home testing kits and mail-in laboratory services offer cholesterol or blood pressure checks, screen for many forms of cancer, predict ovulation more accurately, and even provide paternity or HIV testing. In part a backlash against rising health-care costs, consumers are eschewing mainstream medical venues in favor of self-testing's convenience, cost- effectiveness and confidentiality.
Offered through drug stores, mail order and, of course, the Internet, self-care products give consumers a sense of control over their own health and well-being--and afford attuned entrepreneurs an opportunity for healthy profits.
They're getting older and better--at spending, that is. For the 77 million baby boomers, the empty-nest syndrome has given way to something more akin to a celebration: Without the expense of kids, boomers have more money to spend--and they're happy to spend it. Marked by sophisticated taste in everything from food and wine to home furnishings and automobiles, boomers are purchasing more goods and services than any other consumer group.
Capitalizing on this booming market, Boston-based General Cinema (GC) recently launched its first luxury theater-restaurant combination in Lombard, Illinois. GC's reservations-required Premium Cinema coddles its patrons with high-backed, gently rocking leather armchairs; expansive legroom; and side cocktail tables. Dinner (complete with wine list) is served in the theater's cafe.
According to a recent CondÃ© Nast Publications' survey, New Accents on Affluence, in addition to their pursuit of creature comforts, members of the high-income boomer set actively maintain and preserve their youth and readily employ new technology as a means of realizing their goals. Look for entrepreneurs to benefit as a new-millennium definition of the "middle years" takes shape.
Up With Food
As the median age of society approaches 40, specialty food retailers are reaping big rewards. "People have upgraded their taste levels," says restaurant marketing consult Raymond Coen.
"Just as we're appreciating art more, we [baby boomers] are also upscaling our tastes--whether it's microbrews or brick-oven pizzas or just higher-quality food," agrees Gerald Celente, author of Trends 2000 (Warner Books).
The trend is fueling sales from coast to coast. Showing up in the sweets category, gelatos that boast Tahitian vanilla and European chocolate are desserts with distinction. For lunch and dinner, foodies are flocking to upscale sandwich shops and cafes that offer to-die-for flatbreads and international recipes they'd never try at home.
Jay Wainwright, 28, and his brother Shep, 25, have watched sales heat up at their Cosi Sandwich Bars, a high-end lunch concept based on their favorite Paris restaurant. Launched in 1996, Cosi's 12 Manhattan locations (and one in Boston) ring up annual sales of more than $1 million apiece.
It's not just the affluent's wallets that are opening. Consumers with less discretionary income may dine upscale less often, but when they do, they order what satisfies them. Says Coen, "Why spend less money and not get what you want?"
Trends Research Institute, (800) 25-TREND, http://www.trendsresearch.com