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What is a Trend Spotter?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A trend spotter is someone who specializes in identifying emerging trends. Many trend spotters work in the fashion industry, but they also work in computing, technology, and a variety of other fields. Employment in this field requires an extensive knowledge, along with training in psychology to understand how trends emerge and why certain trends get picked up, and others don't. Many major companies employ trend spotters to keep an eye on their industry, with the goal of staying ahead of the competition.

Trend spotters roam the streets of major cities looking for new trends which could be adapted by their parent companies. Cities like New York, Paris, and Tokyo are often hot spots for trend spotters, because these cities feature a very knowledgeable, educated population which often propels trends. Styles seen on the street in New York, for example, are often picked up in other American cities through a trickle-down effect.

When identifying new trends, a trend spotter has to determine whether or not the trends will remain fashionable for an extended period of time, and how successful those trends will be. Some tend to be limited geographically, rarely spreading beyond a small region, which would be unprofitable for manufacturers. Others have the potential to spread, especially if given a nudge.

Trend spotters consider the history of trends, many of which are cyclical, and send reports, photographs, and other material back to the companies which hire them. In the case of rapidly evolving trends, companies must be able to move into production quickly to capture the market, and major companies vie to be the first to come out with a product which caters to a new trend. As a general rule, the more companies producing something, the less desirable it becomes, so it is critical to be ahead of the curve, so that fashion-conscious individuals feel like they are buying at the cutting edge.

Trend spotting and trend forecasting are important in a variety of industries. Savvy trend spotters, for example, predicted many of the developments in the Web 2.0 movement, which focuses on user-generated content, and many of these individuals managed to turn a profit by generating products which targeted the Web 2.0 demographic. Trend spotting plays a role in the development of new clothing fashions, computer hardware, cars, architecture, art, and so forth.

To become a trend spotter, someone usually receives extensive education and training in the industry he or she is interested in working for. For example, a fashion trend spotter would go to college for a fashion degree, and work and study in the fashion industry. Many prospective trend-spotters also study business, economics, and psychology to bolster their employability as trend spotters. After receiving a thorough grounding in the mechanics and history of the industry, the trend spotter could start working in company departments which predicted trends, slowly working to the rank of an official trend spotter.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon336000 — On May 25, 2013

I don't think the article meant a trendspotter just stumbles over a trend. There's real research that needs to be done in order to know what to look for. Read "Anatomy of a Trend."

By anon292953 — On Sep 23, 2012

I don't think stumbling over a trend is a trend spotter. Walking around looking for trends? You're joking, right? For those of you who are capable of reading, study "predictive analysis" and "future studies." I'm sorry, but walking around, having "an eye" for trends is just plain idiotic!

By BostonIrish — On Dec 11, 2010


It is strange to think of these "algorithms" which have been used in psychology and sociology to trace change. So much of people's information now shows up on the internet and can be placed into surveys and formulae which dictate how to best operate in a massive capitalistic system of advertising. It would be strange to think of how people would react if they knew how much of their information was available to the corporate public.

By arod2b42 — On Dec 09, 2010

A cross-cultural and intercultural understanding of trends is becoming more important as the world continues to be bridged by the internet at an ever-increasing pace. Trends may begin to shift dramatically as time goes on, and the algorithms which watch and seek to encompass the ethos and changes of the years may need to be fundamentally altered to keep pace with such a change.

By Nabweekly — On Nov 24, 2008

I consider myself a business and technology trendspotter and many of my 'predictions' have been right on the nose. That is how I became employed into the blogging business as four years ago I knew blogging would be the hot trend of the future, but trying to sell it to companies then, not many would listen and pushed me away. Some of the bigger media companies shunned me for using social networks as a marketing tool just a year ago because I was over 30 and a small business. Now this large media company uses all the social networks integrated into their everyday program. Many of these companies remember me as the woman who introduced and educated them into this new world trend of blogging, with the blogging potential still in the infancy stages.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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