A renewed interest in old-fashioned products, produced in slow and more traditional ways, offers a host of new revenue streams, says William Higham
Top Gear star James May’s new The Reassembler garnered half-a-million viewers in May, a good performance for BBC4. Why? It’s a great example of ‘slow TV’ (appropriately for a man nicknamed ‘Captain Slow’) – just May in his shed reassembling household objects. And slow TV is on-trend TV now – because slow everything is on-trend.
First came slow food. Started in Italy in 1990s, it aimed to uphold traditional gastronomy and food production. More recently slow fashion looked to decelerate purchase cycles via clothes that were built to last.
Now comes slow leisure: young consumers embracing ‘old fashioned’, ‘inefficient’ products and practices. Despite the availability of cheap, convenient music streaming – Spotify now has 30 million paying subscribers – UK vinyl sales rose 50 per cent last year to two million, while turntable revenues in John Lewis were up 240 per cent.
Hipster pubs are holding VHS nights showing 1980s films on old video recorders. Board games are popular, as are small-run print magazines. Physical book sales are up. Young affluents are collecting vintage analogue watches. Camera sales are stabilising.
The trend’s reached health and beauty too. Ethnopharmacology – the study of ancient herbal practices – is on the rise, and magazines and cosmetics brands are trading on ‘ancient’ beauty secrets and ranges. Ancient superfoods are the hot ingredients. Some doctors are even returning to leeches to help with skin grafts!
Across sectors, slow is proving popular and profitable. In an age of diminishing prices and profits, the slow movement offers a rare opportunity for premium sales. Some 61 per cent in the US and 82 per cent in China consider slowing down a “luxury”.
The average cost of a vinyl album in the UK is now £20: twice the price of a monthly Spotify subscription. An independent magazine will typically set you back £10.
Yes, the overall trend for big-ticket items is shifting from purchase to access, but slow living offers a premium niche market. In our fast-moving world, it’s worth finding something slow to sell.