You might think a trend watcher and fashion editor would be in her element in a shopping centre, but Sue Evans looks bored. 'When I come to Hong Kong the last place I want to go is any of the malls,' she says. 'I'd much rather go to SoHo or any of the street markets because that's where you really get a feel for where you are.' The trends business is a relatively new one. 'Years ago there were no such things as trend forecasters,' says Evans, senior fashion editor at Worth Global Style Network, a London-based trend-watching firm whose clients include designers such as Giorgio Armani and stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue. 'Then it went from forecasting to developing those trends for clients, from taking a concept that is quite open - such as the medieval [look] - and saying, 'Okay, this is how it works for you'.' Identifying a potential trend is more psychology and street sense than science. Evans, who was in town to address local retailers, says she and her colleagues don't rely on analytical tools to identify what's likely to be hot. But Evans says two distinct strategies will shape how we shop in the next few years: storytelling and niche marketing. And she's betting that we'll soon add 'green-tailing' to the vocabulary. In retail, telling a story means creating a shopping space that's more than shelves and racks. Evans points to retailers that turn their stores into exhibition areas, using art to boost sales, and to brands setting up outlets in temporary locations for limited periods, usually relying on word-of-mouth to attract customers - so-called pop-up promotions. Storytelling can be product-specific, too. One trend is for collectable T-shirts with a tale behind the logo or design, which stores such as Lane Crawford are tapping into with T-shirts emblazoned with the work of established or up-and-coming artists. Each has a tag that tells the artist's story. 'Customers always engage with a good story and storytelling through environments is now one of the most important skills in brand communication,' she says. For Evans, no one does that better than designer Paul Smith. His new Paris store has drawn enormous media attention not only for showcasing his clothing lines, but also for the way items collected in his travels are on display. Wind-up cars and die-cast models share the space with British artist Benedict Radcliffe's automotive-themed work. There's even a full-scale wire sculpture of a car on the street in front, which intrigues curious passersby so much that many take a look inside the shop, Evans says. Lane Crawford also introduced visual vignettes at its IFC store earlier this year when it commissioned photographer Thomas Zanon-Larcher for a Fashion Behind the Scenes campaign. Backstage photos taken at key fashion shows and snippets of stories were placed alongside outfits to lend drama to new collections. Trends specialist Reinier Evers sees storytelling as a marketing technique similar to the pop-up retail phenomenon that his company identified four years ago. 'Now virtually every self-respecting brand has experimented with pop-up stores, bars or hotels,' he says. Although storytelling doesn't involve a change of location, both techniques are about drawing consumers into a new environment, says Evers, founder of Amsterdam-based Trendwatching.com, a site that relies on a network of 8,000 spotters in 70 countries for tips on possible trends. Contributors whose tips are posted earn points that can be redeemed for prizes. With niche marketing, stores aim to appeal to a more clearly defined clientele, and Evans cites local menswear chain Chocoolate as an example. Targeting affluent thirtysomething males willing to pay extra for simple, well-made clothes, its seven stores feature stylish decor and extras such as computers for Web browsing and checking membership points. Chocoolate's ad campaign was highly successful at homing in on that market, Evans says, by linking the brand with the Coctails, an 80s American garage jazz band arguably better at graphic design and marketing than at music. Built around cartoon Coctails members dressed in Chocoolate designs, the ad 'represents a quirky, nutty coolness and nostalgia' designed to appeal to their target customers, Evans says. 'It's interesting that they're targeting older males. It's really the way retail is going, with a huge amount of disposable income in the older customer market.' Although Hong Kong has yet to see much of it, green-tailing - selling environmentally friendly products or marketing goods in a way that raises eco awareness - is also catching on worldwide. 'People don't just want token gestures anymore,' Evans says. 'They want to know what they're wearing has been ethically produced. It's going to be a huge thing for the textile industry. It's going to change the way people do business. Designers will come to a point where they say, 'We're not using that fabric because it's not been ethically produced'. There will be a huge switch in the market.' Timberland, for example, has pledged to plant a tree for every pair of boat shoes it sells in Europe. But some schemes may have more to do with a feel-good factor than any real contribution to the environment. In London, Harrods is growing fruit, vegetables and flowers in a rooftop garden to be harvested and sold in its food court downstairs. Andy Wong Hon-pong, head of design and marketing at casualwear brand Chicks, is looking to ensure his products are ethically produced, and working out ways to inform his customers about environmental issues without evangelising. 'If you get in people's faces about being green, it'll turn them away,' he says. 'The clothes must be fashionable, too, not just the cause. But you've got to be fresh in how you market it. Now that we know what Harrods and Timberland are doing, we'll do something else.' Retailers are bound to become more ecologically minded in their marketing when larger industries are already going green, says Evers. 'Look at what GE is doing, British Petroleum, Chevron, Toyota,' he says. 'There are very few [big companies] who do not in some way or another now market their wares by calling attention to big issues including [the environment].' Concern over green issues has grown such that it no longer offers market advantage. Instead it's a marketing necessity, he says. 'In a world that is transparent, companies have nowhere to hide when they perform below expectations or underperform compared with competitors. The cliche that understanding customers' wishes is the most important thing in business is becoming an urgent reality, so [trend watching] is a priority for small and big firms alike.' There's one major retail trend, however, that draws only a groan from Evans: globalisation. Looking around another mall, the trend spotter finds it dominated by the international brands found in any major city. '[Globalisation] is a real shame,' she says. 'There may well come a time when you won't want to travel because every place will have lost its uniqueness.'