Hem Gems and Your Denim: How Good Products Present Simple Solutions to Widespread Problems

Simple, Effective, Valuable, and Playing in a Big Market. This is the stuff of great products. Do you have ideas that measure up? To give you an example, let's look at a product and assess these issues.

The Market: When it comes to making the lower half of your body look good, consumers are undaunted by the recession, new spending attitudes, or anything for that matter. Designer jeans are still here. In fact, according to a report issued by the NPD Group in May of this year, denim has proven surprisingly recession-proof. It was one of the few apparel categories to actually grow in 2009 (+3.5%). Even the uber-premium brands did well, as evidenced by extremely strong sales reports, in both the 4th quarter and all of 2009, from brands such as True Religion, Joe’s Jeans, and VF Corp’s 7 for All Mankind.

The Problem: I know women who own different washes, colors, and fits. But perhaps no attribute causes a woman to own 5, 6, or 10 pair, as much as length. Am I wrong on this one? She might have a $250 pair she wears with heels, and another $150 pair she wears with flats. For a guy, the problem might not be matching shoes so much, but watching your jeans quickly fray, shred, and drag at the bottom because they're long enough to touch the ground as you walk. Just ask MyTrueFit.com, which has a guide to proper jean length, or UpscaleJeans.com, which notes that most people don't want to bother with getting their jeans professionally altered. Personally, I hate jeans shopping. If it wasn't for my girlfriend's tireless enthusiasm and ability to save me from dressing like an idiot, I wouldn't do it. And wrecking the hem of my jeans means that I have to go shopping sooner. Now, I'm going to give an example of a product that my company has been involved in--so I'm being clear on full disclosure. But bias and self congratulatory promotion aside, Hem Gems is a perfect example of applying a simple solution to a widespread problem, in a big market. I've discussed "The Market" and "The Problem". The solution?

The Solution: Hem Gems, a new fashion accessory company and product, is seeking to take a big bite out of these problems in what is a $13 billion denim industry. The technology is by no means revolutionary. In fact, it's scary simple!

Simple and effective.

Simple, effective, and...valuable.

Simple, effective, and valuable...in a big market!

That is the stuff of successful products. Hem Gems has a noteworthy segment of consumers, who spend in the hundreds of dollars per year on high-end jeans, and can offer them more flexibility for their products and longer product life with the addition of their very affordable, stylized products.

Too often, I see inventors, start-ups, and product developers attempting to throw massive engineering and complexity at solving problems that are so simple in nature. We spend so much time and resources building up our skillsets and knowledge that we feel inclined to bludgeon problems with them. This is just the beginning... I've seen products that:

  • don't solve a problem effectively
  • create another problem that is just as bad
  • solve problems in great fashion, but perhaps the value of solving that
  • problem isn't really compelling to a consumer -products that effectively solve a problem in a simple fashion, and this is valuable to a segment of consumers.

However, the problem lies in the fact that the targeted consumer segment is not big enough to justify all the fuss of getting the product to market.

For me, Hem Gems is a classic example of a winning formula that is helpful to keep in mind when developing new products: Simple, effective, valuable...and playing in a big market. Keep this in mind! Not only will it help you filter out ideas not worth chasing (as covered in my last post), but it will also help you form your pitch for investors, banks, partners, and customers.

Ashton Udall is a partner at Global Sourcing Specialists, a product
development and sourcing firm.  He works in product design, development, and
manufacturing, and has been a speaker on these topics at Stanford University,
the Industrial Designers Society of America, Inventors Alliance, and more. You can reach him at Audall@productgss.com.