From food to fashion to toys, whats expected to sell big in 2017

In a matter of days, we’ll say farewell to 2016, a year when clothing stores were suddenly teeming with off-the-shoulder tops; when restaurant menus filled with dishes featuring ghost pepper and other sriracha successors; and when gaming geeks went mad for the old-school-style Nintendo NES consoles that reminded them of their childhoods.

So what will be the big consumer crazes of 2017? Here, we’ve collected some predictions.

Food: Look for this to be the year that breakfast goes global. Technomic, a foodservice industry research firm, forecasts that restaurants will reach beyond breakfast burritos and start incorporating more Asian, African and Middle Eastern ingredients and spices into morning menus. The group says diners can expect to see more dishes like shakshuka, which, in a version offered at a small chain called Snap Kitchen, features eggs, chickpeas, kale, feta and spiced tomato sauce. Also, in an era when fat is not thought to be the dieting enemy it once was, Technomic expects restaurateurs will go big this year not only with butter, but with fats such as lard and tallow. 

Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association predicts that unconventional cuts of meat, such as oyster steaks or Merlot cut steaks, will be a key menu trend in 2017. The trade group also expects poke, a Hawaiian raw fish dish, to take center stage.

Fashion: Brace yourselves for an 80’s resurgence, but don’t start having nightmares about outfits that look straight out of “Designing Women.” Sidney Morgan-Petro, retail editor at trend forecasting firm WGSN, says we’re not going to see the aesthetic re-emerge quite so literally.

“It’s less about the actual look of the ’80s, and more about some of the ideas,” Morgan-Petro says. 

So, for example, we can expect to see a lot of voluminous clothing with bigger proportions. Instead of skinny jeans, think slouchy trousers. Instead of ultra-tailored outerwear, think cocoon-like, floor-grazing overcoats. But perhaps the most prominent example of the volume trend will be a cavalcade of tops and dresses with billowing, dramatic sleeves. Bell sleeves, flute sleeves, ruffled sleeves, bishop sleeves — these silhouettes are already catching fashionistas’ eyes and are likely to explode in popularity in 2017.

“I think designers have seen that that kind of frivolous trim, that decadence in silhouette, is really resonating,” said Katie Smith, senior analyst at fashion forecasting firm Edited. 

Morgan-Petro also anticipates that we’ll see the “athleisure” trend shift toward a look she calls “athluxury.”

“We’re going to see these elements that we love from athletic and activewear, but looking more refined and more sartorial,” Morgan-Petro said.

In other words, instead of simply wearing our gym leggings to do errands, we might invest in pieces that are made of similarly comfortable, technical fabric, but were intentionally designed to look more like a true trouser.

Beauty: The business of getting gorgeous roughly breaks down into four areas: makeup, skincare, hair care and fragrance. And Karen Grant, beauty industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm, said makeup is where she expects we’ll see “seismic momentum” in 2017.  Eyebrow grooming products such as tinting gel and sculpting pencils should be especially popular, Grant said, continuing a recent hot streak. NPD found sales of these products soared 37 percent in the most recent quarter, as fuller, Lily Collins-esque brows remain in vogue.

Grant also expects a strong 2017 for lipsticks as well as contouring makeup, a product you apply to your face to strategically highlight your bone structure.

Why does Grant forecast that makeup will sell so strongly? She said a burst of new brands and new products helps.

Make-up sellers, Grant said, are “being rewarded by all the innovation coming into that category.” 

Gadgets: The year ahead looks poised to be a breakout one for voice-activated digital assistants such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Technology Association, said the early adopters who purchased these devices this year could be crucial catalysts for the technology to burst into the mainstream in 2017.

“As the ownership rates move up, the exposure increases,” DuBravac said.

In other words, more of us are going to encounter these devices in real life — say, when we go to a friend’s house and watch him use Echo to cue up the party tunes, or visit a sister who tells Google Home to add milk to her grocery shopping list. Once more consumers start to experience these use cases, they may be compelled to buy one of their own.

Also, it’s worth noting that adoption of these gadgets is poised to increase in part because the technology that powers them has gotten vastly better. DuBravac said that back in the 90s, the “word error rate” for voice-activated assistants was near 100 percent, meaning they almost never understood the user correctly. Fast forward to 2013, and that rate had come down to about 25 percent. Now, though, in the last three years, he said it has fallen to about 5 percent. 

“We’ve had more progress in that technology in the last 30 months than in the previous 30 years,” DuBravac said.

(Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

Toys: Next year should be an extraordinarily busy one for toys with tie-ins to the silver screen. Jim Silver, chief executive at toy review website TTPM, says that in a typical year, we might see eight feature films that are attached to major merchandise licensing programs. This year, Silver said there are some 20 films that fit that bill. An installment in the “Transformers” series is scheduled to hit theaters this summer. And Spider-Man, one of the best-selling of all Marvel’s characters in toyland, should be in-demand after the box-office debut of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Also, Disney is set to release in March a live-action version of its 1991 animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” which stars Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame and will likely deliver a jolt of interest in that property.

“Disney, probably among all the studios, is really good at building franchises and leveraging those” into a merchandising strategy, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president at the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.

It’s worth noting, Silver says, that the toy industry could benefit from the way these movie releases are positioned on the calendar. Instead of just a crush of toy-friendly movies at Christmastime, there’s going to be a steady trickle of flicks all year long that could have kids dragging their parents to the toy store.

Looking beyond toys with a Hollywood connection, keep an eye on the re-launch of Teddy Ruxpin. Laurie Schacht, co-publisher at review site The Toy Insider, said she expects the new, souped-up version of the 80’s-era talking bear to be a big hit. Its manufacturer, Wicked Cool Toys, is betting that it will strike a serious note of nostalgia for parents who played with the original back in the day.

Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so but Amazon wont give up her data.

When police responded to a home in Bentonville, Ark., one Sunday morning last November, they discovered Victor Collins’s dead body in the backyard. Police records describe a grim scene: Collins’s body was floating face up in a hot tub, and his left eye and lips dark and swollen.

The resident who had called 911, James A. Bates, told police that he and a few work buddies, including Collins, had stayed up the night before watching football and drinking. Bates agreed to let two of them crash at his house, he told police, then went to bed. Shortly after he awoke, he claimed he spotted Collins’s lifeless body in the spa.

Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.

Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermometer, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”

That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.

While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?

[Did you just open a brand new home hub? Read this first.]

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.

(Amazon makes the Echo, and Jeff Bezos is the chief executive of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post.)

Police did not specify what data they expected to find on Bates’s Echo — nor is it clear what the device could have captured that would have been relevant to the case. Only if someone happened to have triggered his device with its wake word would it have begun recording any audio. Even then, it seems unlikely that audio would be conclusive evidence of an alleged murder.

At least part of the search warrant indicated police may not have had a full understanding of how the Echo worked.

“The Amazon Echo device is constantly listening for the ‘wake’ command of ‘Alexa’ or Amazon,’ and records any command, inquiry, or verbal gesture given after that point, or possibly at all times without the ‘wake word’ being issued, which is uploaded to Amazon.com’s servers at a remote location,” the affidavit read in part. “It is believed that these records are retained by Amazon.com and that they are evidence related to the case under investigation.”

That allegation — that the Echo is possibly recording at all times without the “wake word” being issued — is incorrect, according to an Amazon spokesperson. The device is constantly listening but not recording, and nothing is streamed to or stored in the cloud without the wake word being detected.

[Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos: Debate between privacy and security is ‘issue of our age’]

Amazon, for its part, has refused to comply with the warrants, according to court records. A company spokeswoman said she could not comment on this specific case.

“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” a company spokeswoman said in an email to The Post. “Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”

The case and its implications are reminiscent of one earlier this year, in which the FBI demanded Apple’s help in cracking an iPhone belonging to terrorists who opened fire at a work party last December and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

Apple refused to comply, and the FBI ended up paying professional hackers to crack the phone.

As The Post’s Hayley Tsukayama reported in May:

In the midst of that public fight, Bezos said Amazon was among the many tech companies backing up Apple — and that they were embracing technology that would make it difficult for government officials to access any personal information on its devices, even when those authorities have a warrant.

A Bentonville police spokesman did not return a call requesting comment Tuesday.

Bates, who was charged with first-degree murder, pleaded not guilty in April and has been out on bail, court records show. His trial is set to begin in 2017.

Bates’s defense attorney, Kimberly Weber, told the Information she was alarmed by the police request of Amazon, which she viewed as an invasion of her client’s privacy.

“You have an expectation of privacy in your home, and I have a big problem that law enforcement can use the technology that advances our quality of life against us,” Weber told the news site.

Undeterred by Amazon’s refusal to turn over Bates’s Echo data, detectives sought the help of a far closer source: the Bentonville utilities department.

According to police records, a city utility billing and collections manager told detectives that, on the night of Collins’s death, 140 gallons of water were used at Bates’s home between 1 and 3 a.m., an amount of water usage that exceeded all other periods there since October 2013.

“In comparison, while all four [men] were together earlier that evening, they never used more than 10 gallons of water in an hour,” police reports said. “The amount of water used between 0100-0300 hours was consistent with spraying down the back patio area, which may have resulted in the wet concrete patterns observed on the morning of November 22nd.”

The utility department’s source? Each home in Bentonville was on a smart meter, police were told, to measure and record the exact consumption of electricity and water every hour.