Bakers Journal

Features Business and Operations
Editor’s letter: May 2011


The spring cleaning period has passed, and we’re into summer shopping. It’s time to beef up the wardrobe, and I’ll admit I love shopping season. The recent culmination of writing about wedding trends, reading about food developments and leafing through the pages of Vogue in pursuit of ideas for my closet really got me thinking about what trends mean in the overall scheme of things for designers, whether they design wedding cake or footwear.

The spring cleaning period has passed, and we’re into summer shopping. It’s time to beef up the wardrobe, and I’ll admit I love shopping season. The recent culmination of writing about wedding trends, reading about food developments and leafing through the pages of Vogue in pursuit of ideas for my closet really got me thinking about what trends mean in the overall scheme of things for designers, whether they design wedding cake or footwear.

One of our mandates at Bakers Journal is to spot consumer shifts in behaviour to help our readers anticipate what the market will look like down the road, whether next year or five years from now. Some of these changes are movements that become permanent behaviour and others are passing fads. Determining which is which is tricky. Passing fancies are often cyclical and can stick around past their predicted longevity (like all things 1980s).

How you do (or don’t) incorporate these consumer habits and desires into your bakery can certainly make a difference in your near and far future bottom line. But when you get right down to what’s in vogue, there’s a trait that never goes out of style: individuality. Brands and people become leaders with a recognizable presence of their own when they know what it is that they do better than anyone else, and this one thing is often a niche within the overall line. In fashion, the most successful designers are considered the very best at one thing, and although that one thing may shift in shape with the trends, it is timeless and pervasive. See: Chanel and tweed suits or Louis Vuitton and luggage. These are signature items like a signature dessert. And they are very specific.

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It is great to want to be the best bakery in town, but consider the monumental task of making all of your products better than anyone else’s. It’s easy to underestimate the time and energy that goes into being the best at anything, and when you really look at those who are considered to be in the company of greatness, it’s often one or two things they do, or some aspect of their operation that defines them and that just can’t be replicated. Consequently, they become the go-to business for that one item, and of course sell other things to these same customers, even though someone else may be doing these other things better.

Being a professional at something means wearing many hats and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It seems wasteful to become anything but proficient at your weaknesses and exploit the heck out of your strengths. If designing cakes is your strength, what is the one thing about your designs that you are the best at? Piping? Gum paste flowers or figurines? There will be some aspect in which you shine just a little bit brighter than your competition. Become great at the rest of the skills, but outstanding at the one skill in your trade that you have an edge on. It’s not always clear when you look at an overall product that’s definitely a thing of beauty and tasty too, but knowing what aspect of that product is signature to you is an important part of defining yourself.

I appear to have digressed from my point of trends but it all comes back in a circle. Once you succeed at leading the pack in some aspect of your skill set, the trends are yours to play with and you will be able to make them your own. They are important for understanding market demands, but only after knowing yourself first, for individuality is the one thing guaranteed never to go out of style.


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