Pantone recently announced its Color of the Year, Ultra Violet. How did this color get chosen and how should you use it in your stores?
The more intentional your use of color, the more energetic and engaging your store will be. Studying the concept, reading what the experts say, and finding resources that are doing exceptional color work are good ways to dive deeper into ways to create more engaging and profitable displays.
Color is a powerful motivating force, especially effective in influencing consumers to react and buy.
The Color Supply Chain
The color supply chain starts with world trends and cultural influences that are captured, digested and translated by color professionals, trend watchers and the most forward-looking designers. Some notable companies that do this are Fashion Snoops, The Trend Curve, WGSN, Pantone, and The Color Marketing Group, to name a few. These services break color down for their manufacturing and retail clients into actionable directions. Manufacturers use this information to create their assortments and present color and trend points of view to retailers at trade shows. Retailers select from these products and add their own edit. Finally, the products become available to consumers and purchases are made. All along the way, color choices are made. And to the degree that the color choices suit the mood and desires of the consumer, a successful cycle ensues. Nevertheless, the cycle starts again. So ultimately, no matter how much expertise is expended along the color choice process, it is ultimately end consumers who are in charge; as they decide on the relevance of a color by voting with their pocketbooks.
The world of color has been studied since the early masters of art and science. Did you know that the color theory we now use was inspired by the scientific work of leading thinkers such as Isaac Newton, Goethe and Rene Descartes? It seems that in the 18th century, philosophers and scientists were using musical theory, psychological theory and early color wheels to describe human tendencies and character. Like Carl Jung much later used temperaments, these thinkers used color preferences to explain behavior and types of people. Today color theory is used in advertising and merchandising to influence and motivate behavior. So, studying the impact of color goes beyond making merchandising choices. It can also be used to affect your own advertising effectiveness.
Color Trend Services
We were fortunate to have several industry experts to lead us through the field of color and its affects in the home so we don’t have to go it alone. Leaders like Leatrice Eiseman who heads up Pantone’s color research and forecasts has written dozens of books on the subject of color and how to use it. She just released a new one. Check http://www.colorexpert.
com/books-by-leatrice/ for more information. There are trend forecasting experts that not only describe what is happening now in color and trend, but what is forecast to happen in the next few years. These trend services shop the world to see trade shows, leading manufacturers and retailers to bring back intelligence and insight for their customers. The information they provide guides manufacturing, buying and merchandising decisions. Standouts in our industry are people like, Michelle Lamb of the Trend Curve, Jaye Anna Mize of Fashion Snoops and the team at WGSN. All three of these companies are at the top of their game and consult with some of the world’s leading companies about color and trend choices. The good news for those of us in the furniture industry is that they are frequent speakers at furniture shows and are generous with their time and knowledge at market events. If you get a chance to subscribe to their services, to follow them or hear them speak, you will not be disappointed. Check your market guides under the speakers and educational sections. You will find great resources there.
The Color Marketing Group is another organization devoted to education and collaboration for color professionals around the world. Their members gather throughout the year in cities such as Shanghai, Montreal, Portland, High Point, Los Angeles, and Cleveland to work towards predicting color palettes that will show up in products like paint, textiles, sofas, lamps, rugs, cars, cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and advertising. Members of this group are professional color specifiers in select industry segments. The output of their extensive work together is a color palette selection by region (Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific) around the world. Also in attendance are leading paint companies like Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and color specifying companies like Pantone and NCS. These designers and color specifiers use this work in their own companies to choose colors. This collaborative process is one of the reasons you will see certain colors keep popping up in products…take Millennial Pink for example…it’s everywhere! And it started with these folks.
The color predictors start with intense discussion about mood, cultural, political and environmental influences, plus other factors that affect the psyche of consumers. Their results influence the chain of decisions outlined above, by manufacturers, retailers and customers, each with their own points of view and personal preferences.
Meet Ultra Violet
Let’s use Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2018 as an example to break it down.
Recently, Pantone announced their color of the year for 2018…. Ultra Violet (Pantone #18-3838). As Pantone describes it, "This color is a dramatically provocative and thoughtful shade, which communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking that points us to the future." You’ve probably already seen lots of press around it and will start to see fabrics and accessories showing up in this color during the winter shows. And guess what? So will your consumers. Imagine how powerful it is when your consumer reads about Ultra Violet in blogs and press, then walks in your store and sees that you have offerings that demonstrate your trend knowledge.
A good example of this can be found in a recent Instagram post from Company C, a manufacturer and designer of colorful, handcrafted home furnishings. Company C sells its merchandise at its flagship store in Concord, New Hampshire, a storefront in Portland, Maine and online. At the most recent fall High Point Market, the company introduced products in purples. Christine Chapin, Co-Founder and Colorful Living Officer at Company C, designs rugs nearly two years ahead of the market. She predicted purple as a trend for some time.
Watch as well, the major lifestyle stores and you will see the process play out. Colors that the trend forecasters predict will seem to quickly appear on their retail floors. Because large chains invest heavily in inventory, they also invest in trend forecasting, merchandising processes and assortment planning.
This gives them confidence in their purchases and in those color stories. Many furniture retailers can learn some color tips by taking a look at the how major lifestyle stores work with color.
Retail Trend & Color Process
Most of the large retail chains have an inside or consulting fashion, design or trend director whose job is to work with the buyers of different categories (lighting, rugs, upholstery, case goods, wall art, bedding, etc.) to coordinate their vision and buying plans and pull together the colors and themes for the next retail season.
Planning meetings usually take place ahead of buying trips abroad or to the markets in High Point, Dallas, Atlanta, New York and Las Vegas. They go to market armed with fabrics, Pantone chips, tear sheets and examples of products that articulate selected themes.
Bringing Color To The Floor
One well-known store group consists of stores that are about 10,000 square feet each. They divide their 40 vignettes into about four color/theme stories. To make color stories come alive, they look for about three to six coordinating colors in each story. Then they head to market. Armed with their swatches and Pantone chips they select product and bring their findings back to the merchandising team to create a buying plan. All of this is visually communicated by category and vignette in a large merchandise planning room. As the season unfolds, sales results are posted in this room so analysis can take place. At the end of the season, one third of the store is rotated out and a new color theme or two are rotated in. Trend, plan, buy, execute, sell, analyze, repeat. But it starts with color!
Among the bloggers, the trend and color experts and major retailers, your consumer is bombarded with color and trend themes of the moment. It would be powerful for your merchandise to speak the same language.
Step-By-Step Retail Color
- Designate a permanent merchandise planning space.
- Create an annual calendar.
- Plan your seasons. Use art, lighting, rugs, upholstery, textiles and decorative accessories to carry your color themes.
- Use one color theme of three to six coordinating complimentary colors to carry that theme to each 1500-2000 square feet of your store.
- Go deep, be bold and tell a story. Use color resources available to you. Attend seminars at markets. Follow blogs. Join associations. Subscribe to services. Follow paint companies like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams who do a nice job of talking color and they, like Pantone, predict their colors of the year. Use vendors that have a color and trend process of their own.
Listed below are a few of the best resources available in our business to get you started on your color planning journey.
It’s fun and profitable to live colorfully. Carpe diem!
List Of Resources: Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Pantone, Color Marketing Association, Leatrice Eiseman's books on color, National Color System, WGSN, Fashion Snoops, The Trend Curve, The Dewey Color System.
About Caroline Hipple: Hipple is the President of Ohio-based Norwalk Furniture. She is an industry strategist, adventurous merchant, culture advocate and fearless problem solver.
Prior to her role as President of Norwalk Furniture, Caroline served as the Chief Energy Officer for HB2 Resources, a consulting resource for the home furnishings and retail industry. She also served as president and chief operating officer of the home furnishings retailer Storehouse. In the seven years that Hipple served as president, store sales increased from $89 million to $148 million. She also held a number of management positions with This End Up Furniture Co.
As one of the few women who has led a major home furnishings retail chain, she is known for combining solid business strategy and positive workplace culture with an innate sense of style and insight into consumer home decorating needs. Hipple has received numerous awards and is the author of "A Pathway to Profit", a book about how to set up a process to energize employees.
About Dixon Bartlett: Dixon Bartlett is the Chief Creative Officer of Norwalk Furniture, a furniture industry veteran who has held diverse management positions requiring innovation, initiative, creativity, team building, honest communications and unimpeachable ethics. Joining the newly formed This End Up Furniture Company as a delivery driver’s helper, he rose to vice president of new ventures. He was instrumental in the company’s growth from a few stores to over 230, becoming the 19th largest US furniture retailer.
He took over the merchandising and marketing responsibilities for contemporary lifestyle retailer Storehouse in 2000, helping to create the aesthetic for the “soft modern” look.
For more information about the topics in this article, design trends or merchandising ideas, contact Caroline Hipple at email@example.com.
Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada. In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.