Behind the Scenes at Kmart HQ and what’s Landing Next
I know full well that you’re absolutely addicted to Kmart. Me too. We need to start a support group.
But have you ever wondered where all of those amazing product ideas originate? The velvet dining chairs, those geometric artworks, the marble side tables; whose behind these stylish creations?
At a recent event, I got to meet the design team from Kmart. And let me assure you, it was dreamy. To get the goss on what’s coming for the year ahead, as well as life behind-the-scenes for the design team, was nothing short of joy and rapture.
Given that the team at Kmart are working on products for 2019 already (they work about 12 months ahead), I thought you’d love it if I gave you insight into what’s coming in the homewares space. I was also curious to find out how the team know a product will resonate with customers, and if any surprises have popped up where a decor piece just totally took off.
I grabbed Kmart’s design manager Kate Hopwood and asked her everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Kmart home, decor, living, trends and more. Kate not only helps coordinate product ranges each season, but with the rest of the design team she analyses global trends; identifying the ones Kmart think will best translate into the Australian market.
Who better to interview to answer all of my burning questions!? Let’s do this.
Behind the Scenes with Kmart’s Design Team
How would you say Kmart has evolved in the last few years in the home space?
“The evolution of Kmart home really began back in 2006. This was the time we decided as a business, that we needed to become more design-led… to design and curate our own collections.
This decision has allowed us to pull together key looks more easily, and has also enabled us to provide total home solutions to our customers; which align back to mass market trends.
Our forecast and design manager, Sally Forrest, has been really instrumental in making this happen. She helped build a design team, that could turn this dream into a reality. And today, we have over 40 designers based in our national office in Mulgrave.”
“We really do draw inspiration from so many things – cool new local cafes, intricate architecture, colours found in nature…and all these will trickle through the products you see in Kmart.”
How do you develop the trends we see in stores?
“The product ranging process begins one year ahead of products actually landing in store.
At this time, we begin to analyse global macro trends (what is happening financially, politically, etc.) and to project the impact this is likely to have on our customers.
We will then look to; trend forecasting sites, trade fairs, and social movements – to see what ‘big things’ are emerging in different global markets.
This information helps guide lots of the decision-making; especially in regards to key materials, shapes, details, finishes, and colour palettes.
We will then work with the buying team, to translate all this information into real-life products for our customers.
The buying team have such a strong understanding of the Kmart customer. They constantly review sales, to gain better insights into their likes and dislikes. And these customer responses to products that are in store right now, really help shape future range decisions.
We are constantly looking to delight our customers, and improve our product assortment for them. Customers are at the forefront of everything we do.”
How much time goes into researching what you think will resonate with customers?
“The design team literally live and breathe product. We are always looking for the next big trend, or the next ‘must have’ item…because we want to ‘wow’ our customers everyday.
We never really switch off, because source information from so many different places…especially the world around us.
We could literally be sitting in the botanical gardens, see a flower blooming, and that moment could help shape a floral motif we are creating.
We really do draw inspiration from so many things – cool new local cafes, intricate architecture, colours found in nature…and all these will trickle through the products you see in Kmart.”
“Currently, we are seeing really bold trend colours coming through forecast, and we know we need them – but the key is where, and how much.”
What inspired the trends? Do you look to what’s happening overseas and tweak for the local market?
“We are inspired by anything and everything.
International trade fairs, exhibitions, cool cafes, graffiti – you name it, we soak it up!
We try to harness what is happening in the world around us (be it shape, finish, material) and interpret that, into the products we design.”
Do you ever see a trend out there in the market and think “That won’t work for the Kmart customer?”
“Often it’s about timing. When we see something cool popping up in a few different places, we know that we are onto something….but how we interpret that for our customers is key.
Sometimes trends resonate more than others – marble, copper, and geometric prints, for example…they just flew out the door! But other trends might take a little bit longer to filter through the market.
We are starting to see chocolate brown emerging in home at the moment. If we (as a design team) feel this colour is relevant for our customers next year, we will start introducing it in a small way (through specific pieces). We will track the trend, and if it grows, we will grow it within the range. Because at the end of the day, we want to give customers more of what they want.”
Have you seen trends rolled out in the past that didn’t work? What lessons came from this?
“Our customers love to keep up with new trends…and we are so grateful that they come to us to source statement pieces, to add into their homes. The word ‘add’ is really important to us in design, because we believe that homes evolve over time.
Adding a new piece, or new pieces into the home; can really help refresh and update the whole look and feel of a room.
Currently, we are seeing really bold trend colours coming through forecast, and we know we need them – but the key is where, and how much.
Our team try to provide ‘just’ the right amount of design; be it colour, texture or shape; so that customers can achieve on-trend looks complete easily.”
“Sage is definitely the trend colour of the season; and we have loved using it across different categories and fabrications.”
What are you seeing customers respond to at the moment?
“Anything with texture! Because it just seems to add the extra ‘wow factor’ for customers.
We love texture because it can be applied to so many products – glazing on ceramic bowls or mugs, velvet on cushions or throws, and so forth.
Our customers love to mix and match; and texture provide a really easy way to do this.
Bringing contrasting materials together really helps to create contemporary looks for our customers, and they can elevate this further – by adding prints, patterns or pops of colour.
Larger items, like furniture pieces, are getting a great response – the value and quality is incredible, and they are beautify designed too!”
Can you give readers a hint of what’s to come for Kmart on the trend-front?
“Oh my goodness… I am so excited for the next living range! It is too amazing not to talk about…
Sage is definitely the trend colour of the season; and we have loved using it across different categories and fabrications.
Velvet as a material is going nowhere – still very much on trend.
Lozenge shapes and did someone say terracotta?!? Yum!”
Are there any new product lines on the way you can hint at? Any new furniture drops?
“There is so much goodness coming for our customers.
Furniture updates to our velvet chair (bigger and better than ever), plus new materials like wicker and brass.
Colours of the desert are kind of brought to life in an array of different products, and we love it! Cannot wait to share it with our customers.”
To stay across all the Kmart goodness, check out the Kmart website here.