The retro craze is booming in today’s tumultuous world – and brands can benefit

Like many of you, we at The MBS Group have recently gone through the process of revisiting our strategy and vision for the coming years as we crossed over from one financial year into the next. I always find it’s a very reflective process and it was thrilling to see how much MBS has grown with our clients over the last three decades, and all of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

The future presents plenty of challenges too, and the process also got me thinking about the wider world and all of the turbulence we currently see. No matter which political party you identify with, I think we can all agree that the climate has become much more divisive over the last year, with issues like Brexit high on the agenda. The recent cyber attack on the NHS also reminded me that technology is changing the world at a rapid pace – sometimes with frightening consequences.  

I think that all of this uncertainty helps to explain why more and more consumers are taking solace in retro products and brands. Indeed everywhere I look today I see businesses that are profiting from the rising popularity of retro goods.

Whether it is the recent spike in sales of vinyl records, or the return of once-dormant clothing labels like Kappa and Fila, it is clear that consumers are shopping for items that remind them of a simpler time. Nokia recently relaunched its iconic 3310 phone – a device that first hit the market 17 years ago. Meanwhile Puma reported that strong demand for its Creeper line of retro trainers had helped it to grow annual footwear sales by 8% in 2016.

While leafing through a newspaper recently I also came across an article about Happier Camper, a Los Angeles-based business that sells stylish vintage camper vans. The campers feature beautiful, sleek interiors that can be reconfigured any way the traveller wants. Perfect for hitting the road the old-fashioned way!

Founder Derek Michael tells me that the simplicity and nostalgia of a camper van is a big attraction for customers. “It’s fun to invest in things, and a safe place to sleep and eat on the road is a perfect thing to spend money on,” he says.

“Nature will always be there, good or bad, and this industry can pull through. Our unique trailer hits people where they like it – their heart.”

The product also serves a growing demand for holidaying at home, as more people avoid the stresses of global travel in favour of the familiarity and ease of taking breaks in their own country. The business is currently scaling up as it looks to develop manufacturing processes that can cope with the demand for its glossy, retro campers.

I also find it interesting that businesses that were once considered obsolete or old fashioned are springing back into life. Bookseller Waterstones recently announced its first profit in years as it recorded a £9.8m pre-tax profit for the year to 30th April 2016, up from a £4.5m loss the previous year.

The result is testament to the superb leadership of James Daunt, who became managing director in 2011 with the task of turning around the struggling high street chain. It also shows that among the general public there is a rising appetite for physical books at a time when digital gadgets are supposedly all the rage.

A few years ago people seemed to be reading from Amazon Kindle devices everywhere you looked. Today it strikes me that there are fewer of these devices in the hands of commuters. Indeed these days you are probably just as likely to see someone reading a book on the Tube as you are to see them staring at a Kindle screen. In 2015 Waterstones even made the decision to stop selling Kindles in its stores as sales of traditional books were growing at a much faster rate.

All of these trends give me plenty of food for thought. The world is moving at such a rapid pace, and we are told all the time that technology is reshaping our world, but it is clear that there is value in looking back, as well as forwards.

At a time when there is so much instability in the world, brands that can recall the things that people love from the past can bring some much needed comfort and joy into their lives. | @MoiraBenigson | @TheMBSGroup