Could you summarize the nation's zeitgeist--and the likely effect on shopping habits--in a half-hour? Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer of Euro RSCG Worldwide, managed that feat during her luncheon presentation Sept. 25 at the Shop.org Annual Summit.
Before detailing 10 trends that she said would change retailing, Salzman summed up the philosophy of today's consumer by quoting a saying on a T-shirt that she'd seen in London: "I ask only that you treat me like you treat the Queen."
As for those 10 trends...
#1: The return of the '80s. Not only the fashions (big hair, asymmetrical shirts, neon colors, Lacoste polo shirts) but also the conservative values of the Reagan era.
#2: Rampant obesity. Salzman cited statistics that more than 60% of women and teens in the U.S. wear plus-size apparel.
#3: The young are getting older faster, and the old are staying younger longer. Even as adults are delaying marriage, parenthood, and retirement, preteens are becoming sexually aware much earlier than in generations past. A study that Salzman's company conducted earlier this year found that children and their parents have overlapping tastes in music, TV, and other interests. As a result, she said, target marketing based on age no logner makes sense.
#4: Metrosexuality. "Metrosexuals" are heterosexual men who are "in touch with their feminine side," as the saying goes: They are interested in grooming, enjoy shopping, and keep in shape by practicing yoga.
#5: "Buzz marketing": Because consumers are overwhelmed with promotional messages via so many media, advertising is losing its effectiveness. A more effective, albeit trickier, marketing method is to almost invisibly create favorable word of mouth--giving celebrities free apparel in order to make the clothing brand appear trendy, for instance.
#6: A subtler type of "experience " retail: Instead of theme restaurants and stores with flashy gimmicks, consumer prefer mass merchants that creatively offer deals (such as Target) and local boutiques that give shoppers a sense of exclusivity.
#7: Concerns about the nation's security and economy.
#8: Renewed focus on the home as a haven.
#9: Ethnic evolution and influence: The Hispanic population is growing four times as quickly as the U.S. population at large, Salzman noted. And though Americans "aren't interested in going to foreign places," she said, "we're interested in bringing the culture home to us." Hence the popularity of Asian-infuenced design and ethnic cuisines.
#10: "I'm my own best brand": Customerization and personalization, Salzman said, are more important than ever.