Staying on top of trends is a favorite past-time of mine, since even before I started Mee a Bee. It's easy to do online but there is a lot to sift through. It helps to have a starting place.
I started with blogs. I read hundreds of blogs regularly which is so much easier now that I am using the Google Reader. I subscribe to RSS feeds so the latest blog updates automatically populate my morning reading page. I can scan my favorites, look for quick fixes and overall trends.
Lifestyle blogs give you an overview of what design-minded people are loving. These ideas quickly filter down into mainstream and will appear in the malls within the year if they catch on. Before that happens you can ride the wave in your niche market. Blog readers are statistically more likely to buy online (case in point: me!) and for a small business like mine I don't need the masses to love what I do (would be nice though).
There is a lot of blur between design and color trends for the home and in fashion. Although the kid's market operates a little outside of these trends since recurring themes such as pirates or dinosaurs seem eternally popular. And I don't think you'll ever convince girls to stay away from pink! However other "mini-trends" have been picked up by bloggers, such as matryoshka and robots - two ideas I've been able to apply to Mee a Bee with success. I also picked up on the color orange as an emerging color trend last year. As a result my Robot n Felt book bag was a best seller over Christmas.
My blog must-reads are Design Sponge, Decor8, and Print & Pattern. These were the first blogs I discovered and I remain true to them despite the huge proliferation of similar blogs and websites. It takes a trained eye to spot trends out of the masses of things available to consumers these days. I can use a bit of help.
I read a lot of craft blogs too but mostly for personal satisfaction rather than business. Basically I am a crafter but crafters live in their own world which is not necessarily commercially viable. I love to be inspired by crafters, see how they are using fabrics, learn what kind of things they are making for their kids and their homes.
Do you think it is important to follow trends in this way for your small business? Do you have a "go to" website that you can't live without?
Other links of interest: