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Industries that saw a boost in 2020 weigh in on 2021 outlook

businesses 2021
Posted at 10:15 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-03 17:00:40-04

Nearly every business took a big hit last year, but there were a handful of industries that actually saw a boost during the pandemic. But does that boost in a strange time carry over into a more stable and normal 2021?

In Watertown, Tennessee, Barry Floyd runs a drive-in movie theater.

"The Stardust is an independent drive-in," Floyd said. "My wife and I own the place. We got a lot of customers who came every weekend."

It's a place where everyone loves movies and has a favorite they've seen there.

"Toy Story 2! I loved that movie!" a woman said in the ticket booth.

"I really hope it's going to be Fast and Furious 9!" said a kid standing near the screen.

When COVID-19 hit last year, the Stardust and other drive-ins went through a renaissance.

"When everything got shut down before the streaming services really took off, we were really the only option for movies," Floyd said. "Social distancing is built in. It's what we do."

Nationally, the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association said more than half of drive-ins saw an increase in tickets in 2020, though COVID-19 did create problems for concessions sales in some places.

For Stardust, Floyd said 2020 was the best year they've had in 18 years.

"We opened movies for Hulu and Amazon," he said. "We sold out every weekend with Hocus Pocus."

How are drive-ins doing in 2021?

"Our indoor counterparts are opening back up," Floyd said. "Our attendance has gone down from last year, but as my wife reminded me, we're back to normal. Not every year can be a 2020. We're back to 2019 numbers."

Meanwhile, in Corbin, Kentucky, Jon Huston is the CEO of Webbed Sphere.

"Some of the companies I have include Troll and Toad, Toy Vault," he said.

Huston has long worked in collectibles and board games, but in 2020, he decided to launch a business in jigsaw puzzles. The new brand is called Mchezo.

"Jigsaw puzzles, they went through the roof compared to previous years," he said. "We sold through our entire orders, usually within a week or two."

The NPD Group, a marketing company, says games and puzzle sales in 2020 were up by 29% over 2019. That means for the year, games and puzzles brought in nearly $3 billion.

So, how is Huston's business doing in 2021?

"Board games are trending back to 2019 numbers, absolutely, but COVID permanently increased the number of people interested in puzzles," he said.

Of course, there are several businesses that saw a renaissance in 2020, now seeing if that carries through 2021.

"You know, I have another product that doubled in sales last year," Huston said. "Glass bottles to put your sanitizer in!"