How blasts from the past shape our future
An interesting thing happened during the last weekend of May. A low-budget horror thriller called The Wretched was the number one movie for the fifth week in a row. The movie’s total gross of $841,000 was impressive during a pandemic, but a mere fraction of what a big Hollywood film would earn in one weekend. What caught the eye of analysts was the source of ticket sales. While some of the grosses came from a handful of theatres that remained open and Video on Demand (VOD) sales, the profit came mostly from drive-in theatres.
The show starts at dusk
At the height of their popularity in the late 1950s/early 1960s, there were 4000 drive-ins theatres in the US. By 2020, that number has dwindled to 305 in the US and 36 in Canada. Drive-ins closed their screens for numerous reasons: Owners cashed in during the suburban sprawls and sold the land to real estate developers. The advent of the VCR and VHS movie rentals also kept more people at home. But now, because of the pandemic, drive-ins are making a resurgence.
It turns out drive-ins are a great way to catch a flick while observing social distancing rules. You can still enjoy a movie with family members with limited (and safe) trips to the snack bar. Cars are spaced out to keep moviegoers a safe distance from their neighbour. The sound is pumped into your vehicle’s high-end audio system. Audiences are rediscovering the joys of seeing a movie in an outdoor venue, and drive-ins are selling out.
Innovation doesn’t mean inventing something new. Like retrofitting an older vehicle with modern parts, reviving something old can lead to improved user experience and a new lease on life. So what other retro experiences are making a comeback?
When I was growing up, Friday was “milk day.” That’s when the Dairyland truck would deliver cartons of fresh milk, butter, eggs, cheese and other dairy products. Having those food staples delivered every week meant fewer trips to the grocery store.
In places like Nova Scotia, dairies sold 50-60% of their milk by home delivery. But over the years, soaring gas prices, the proliferation of convenience stores and fewer stay-at-home parents all but ended the home-delivery service.
As millions of people began quarantining, the milk delivery truck became a familiar sight in the neighbourhood. Customers rediscovered the comfort of getting their milk delivered right to their door. The contactless delivery of milk and other dairy items saved them an extra trip to the grocery store. It has also been a boon to local dairies and egg farmers who can sell their products directly to the consumer.
Be a happy camper
With commercial air travel currently in limbo, Canadians with itchy feet are looking to hit the open road in a recreational vehicle. Whether it’s a classic VW bug, an aerodynamic Airstream, or a modern luxurious coach big enough to have its own postal code, RVs are likely the go-to vehicle this summer.
Many dealerships are reporting a big uptick on sales over the last two months, while rental companies like RVezy have seen demand skyrocket by 700%. The surge in rentals and sales has also created a demand for campsite rentals. Vacationing by RV is the perfect way to maintain social distancing protocols while still having a family vacation. Travellers avoid having to stay in hotel rooms, and on-board kitchen amenities translate to fewer stops at greasy spoons. You have full control of your environment, which includes all the basic necessities on wheels. Modern RV’s even feature wi-fi boosters, smartphone controllers and solar panels.
RV companies traditionally rely on tourists for their profits. With air travel on hold, Canadians have more than made up for the shortfall as they look for safe alternatives for summer travel.
Don’t call it a comeback
It seems everything old is new again. Products and services that seemed like a thing of the past are proving valuable once again as customer priorities change. We are in a period of adaptation and evolution, but you don’t just need to look at inventing something new to grow your business. It might be as simple as looking back on what worked before and seeing what is primed and ready for a comeback of its own.