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November 1999

Professional Insider: Trend Spotting

The Tastemakers

Some have it, some don't. If you can position your store as a haven of style, you'll stay on the cutting edge

You can't buy taste, my grandmother would mutter when confronted with a particularly egregious assault on her discerning style sensibility. I'd better place a call to her on the psychic hotline to the great beyond, because, as the century turns, it's become easy to buy taste.

The overwhelming popularity of In Style magazine lies in its ability to make it easy for readers to copy the taste (or lack thereof) of their favorite celebrities. The magazine provides detailed explanations of what the stars wear, how much it costs and how readers can get their own item.

The New York Times credits the class mobility of America for spawning an industry of tastemakers for sale. Social climbing hostesses can go on-line to find how to throw the perfectly appropriate cocktail party from domestic dominatrix Martha Stewart at the "Ask Martha" portion of her Web site ( Fortunately, there's also "Martha by Mail," on the site, where the hapless hostesses can buy Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook for $35, her hors d'oeuvres kit for $72 and fancy toothpicks for $38.

Other tastemakers are retailers first and foremost. High-end cookware purveyor Williams-Sonoma, home furnishings retailer Pottery Barn and the favorite store of neatniks everywhere, Hold Everything, all have their genesis in a hardware store. Back in the '50s, Chuck Williams devoted a portion of his hardware store in Sonoma, CA, to cookware. Forty years later, Williams oversees Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Hold Everything and high-end sheet and pillowcase retailer Chambers and has directed the tastes of kitchen gearheads, redecorating suburbanites and reclining sybarites across the U.S.

On the Jewelry Front

Tiffany & Co. has positioned itself similarly – it's made itself a name-brand that consumers look to for validation of their good taste and discerning quality.

Independent retailers can do this too. Extending your jewelry offerings to beautiful crystal, glass, tabletop and gift items will create a destination for all consumer accessory needs – adorning their bodies and their homes. Your store can embody your personal style and taste, and you can sell it to those who need it.

by Liz Smutko

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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