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October 18, 2019 —

How to harness trends for developing your small business

REtail expert Joanne Griffin shares her advice on how to take inspiration from trends to inform your small business decisions
Joanne Griffin
Retail mentor,
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Although many of us think we don’t follow trends or are led by them in our choices, it is in fact something that is pretty much ingrained in society. Yes, you may not be someone who buys the latest designer trainers or has the newest smart phone, but how many of you have a growing collection of houseplants in your home? Or have bought into products or services to improve your well-being lately? #selfcare. These are all trends, and if you are a small business owner then it is worth taking notice. Your brand is more than likely already influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by current trends, but to really dig deep into how we can harness trends in small business, trend and retail specialist Joanne Griffin of Arnold and Bird is here to share a little of her wisdom….

How to harness trends for your small business development

Trends affect all businesses, from home, stationery, food, beauty, technology and fashion. The usual flow of evolving trends is food first, then fashion and finally, the home. This is mainly due to the speed and frequency in how we consume and use these products. Trends need to seep into a customer’s mindset first. Once a customer is aware of a trend, their attitude will change first. But, it is only when behaviours change that a trend tips into the mainstream.

It’s important to highlight the difference between mindset and behaviour here. How often have you thought ‘I should only eat organic food’. But, it is only when you start to consistently buy organic food that your behaviour has changed to match your mindset.

How to decide what trends are right for you

When working out what inspiration you want to use, it’s important that you don’t use all the design trends that are around at any given time. Use what resonates with you and take elements such as colour, texture or pattern to develop a new theme you can create ideas from.

It’s also important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I personally like this trend? – You need to believe in it to sell it.
  • Can I interpret this trend in a new and different way?
  • Does this trend fit with my customers’ lifestyle choices?
  • How will this trend make my ideal customer feel?
  • Can I develop this trend into a whole new collection, or would it just be one product? – It’s essential to make it cohesive and long lasting.
tend forecasting for small businesses

How to make trends unique so your business stands out 

When you’re researching new inspiration and ideas it’s important to start big and gather lots of information without overthinking it too much. Pin lots of images that you’re drawn to, search for and jot down specific key terms and rip out images from magazines that catch your eye.

It’s also important to look for inspiration outside of your niche. For example, if you’re a stationery brand then look beyond notebooks to architecture, fashion, homeware and food to influence your ideas. Then comes the time to edit this down. Analyse why you’re drawn to a particular image – is it the colour, texture or shape? Why does this appeal to you?

Start to refine this further on a mood board – be this a physical one or on a program such as Canva. By piecing together how your inspiration fits together you start to focus your ideas to inform your design process.

To make your brand unique, it’s best to look at your inspiration then put it away and think about your design style, processes and strengths. Use your imagination and dream big around what you’ve seen and what your design style is all about. Review your past sales here to see how these trends can move your best-selling products or services on.

To ensure you’re interpreting trends in new ways, think about how this fits with your brand story and values. And bring it back to your brand’s why and purpose. It’s important to do this so what you offer fits with the essence of what your business is all about.

Using trend forecasting in a small business

Finally, if it’s products your designing or making, write down lots of ideas during this process and then leave it for a day. Come back to these ideas with fresh eyes and you’ll see the strongest ones you want to move forward with and start prototyping, and maybe even make a few tweaks. If you are buying products in then review your past sales to see what has sold well and appealed to your customers. Think about how you can move these themes on by sourcing new products that fit your brands aesthetic and the new trends.

If you are a service provider, then research ideas, visuals and messages and then put it away so you can dream up new concepts from these ideas! Use the inspiration from your research and apply it to your offerings, marketing and brand style. How can you bring through these themes in your marketing copy? Look at how you can update your brands visual aesthetic. Think about colour, patterns and illustrations that refresh your branding whilst still staying true to your overall style.

If you were someone who didn’t like the word ‘trends’ then hopefully this has provided a different perspective on how to use them to your advantage and in your own way. Interpreting trends is essential to keeping your business in line with what your customers are thinking and doing. It is possible to stay relevant and be connected to the changes happening in the world, whilst being true to your business and it’s values.


If you are a small retail business and would like to develop unique new products that grow your sales, check out Joanne’s website – Arnold & Bird – you’ll find useful blog posts as well as details on her trend guides, workbooks and 1-2-1 services. Joanne is offering 91 Magazine readers 10% off her one-to-one services and online shop during the months of October, November and December. Use code or quote ‘91MAGAZINE’ when you contact Joanne.

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