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26th June 2020 By Ross Henderson

I sometimes wonder what we spoke about before COVID-19 reared its ugly head. It has consumed the news cycle in such a way that society now looks at life as pre and post COVID. 

The entertainment and arts industries have probably been hit the hardest, with live events being cancelled and advertising revenue being affected from hugely reduced spending. But how have people been entertaining themselves without pubs, cinemas and live music venues?

Well one very clear theme that has occurred with everyone locked inside, is a significant increase in screen time and, rather interestingly, specifically for nostalgic content.

ITV4 hit a year high during its rerun of Euro 96 last month. Viewing figures peaked at 1.1 million (Scotland v England - the highest on the channel since July 2019), 700,000 (England v Switzerland) and 500,000 (England v Netherlands) on ITV4.

Behind the newly released Netflix originals such as Tiger King and Money Heist, one of  Netflix most watched shows of 2020 so far has been the sports documentary, The Last Dance, documenting the Chicago Bulls 1997 season. The show hit 37,600,000 views in its first month of release (April 2020).

But it's not just the entertainment industries that are seeing a boom in nostalgic content. 

Staycations across the UK are to become the norm again with traditional seaside and caravan holiday sites seeing a huge increase in demand since international travel has been postponed. 

Self-catering booking site Rest Easy said things took off after Boris Johnson announced lockdown easing on Tuesday. The firm, which provides booking services for traditional holiday and caravan parks, said there has been a 172 per cent increase in bookings compared to this time last year and that the average UK booking is £947, up 47 per cent on same date last year.

But the nostalgia factor is not just a reaction to COVID-19 restrictions, but has merely accelerated a hugely growing market. 

The BBC’s Magnus Bennett reported last year that for the first time ever sales in retro sweets were outgrowing new ranges. 

Data shows that total UK confectionery sales have grown by 13 per cent, to nearly £3.9bn, over the past five years.

That lags well behind retro favourites such as lemon sherbet, which has seen sales soar by 176 per cent to almost £4m, and rhubarb and custard (up by 99.4 per cent  to £3.9m).

So as the world reopens slowly and businesses are looking to rebuild after lockdown, they might be better off looking backwards, in order to move forwards. 

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