Once-popular products, people and fads making a comeback

In tough economic times, reminiscing about the good ol' days seems to be on everyone's minds. And companies are listening. Many businesses are bringing back some of the products and services that served us well in the past -- and might just make us forget our problems for awhile.

So just what's making a comeback these days? Here's Walletpop's take on the top 10 people, products and services that take us back to the future.


once popular products making a comeback, layawayThis method of buying merchandise -- where you set aside what you want and pay for it over a set period of time -- was available almost everywhere in the 1920s and 1930s. But in the 1980s, as credit card use exploded, it became virtually extinct. Now, with credit cards becoming more difficult and more expensive to use, layaway is very much back in style, and stores like Kmart have been promoting it over the holidays for several years now. Next time you're at your favorite store, ask if they have a layaway program -- you might just be surprised to find they do.


Christmas Savers Clubs, popular during the Great Depression, are now back in vogue as cash-strapped consumers struggle to stay within a tight budget. Once run by banks, these programs - a viable option for those who can't get credit or who are reluctant to assume new debt - are now offered by several retailers. Sears and Kmart, for instance, introduced them last year; Toys R Us launched its program, where you can load as little as $1 or as much at $2,500 on each Christmas Savers card, in June. Sign up for the Toys R Us program by October 16th, and you get a 3% bonus on your deposits (capped at $75); funds can be used after October 31, 2010.


Remember the days when only those who could afford a home bought one? Remember when it was in the lender's interest to make sure you could afford that loan? After years of giving mortgages to anyone with a pulse, banks and other financial companies are going back to basics. Under the terms of the financial overhaul bill, lending institutions will be required to verify income, assets and credit histories of borrowers. In other words, you're only going to get approved for a mortgage if they know you can afford it. The bill also insists that lenders retain an interest (at least 5%) in the loans they make. That means you can essentially say goodbye to riskier, "non qualified mortgages" such as interest-only loans, no-downpayment loans, 40-year loans, no-doc loans, and option ARMs. Most lenders won't offer them given the stake in ownership.


With the jobless rate at a 27-year high, and the nation's poverty rate at a 16-year high, it's no surprise that a record number of Americans - nearly 40 million - are receiving food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Newly released Census data shows that in 2009, 10.3% of households were on the benefits. Forty-six states saw an increase, and that increase was upwards of 30% in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin. The government-run program, which first started in 1939, has grown so rapidly that it's no longer stigmatized; in fact, it's becoming almost ordinary, feeding one in 10 U.S. families.


Unlike feature films, television has a bad track record with remakes (Remember the remake of the Bionic Woman? Probably not, as it lasted just nine episodes!), but network executives are going that route anyway with CBS's Hawaii Five-O. So far, the remake of the original - which ran for a whopping 12 seasons, starting in 1968 - has defied odds. The network premiere won in its time slot, attracting an estimated 14.2 million viewers, which suggests (to some degree) that we like familiarity and that we're both curious and nostalgically loyal.


Ever since this year's Super Bowl, when 88-year old Betty White was featured in that now famous Snickers commercial, the showbiz veteran of more than 60 years has been in higher demand than she was in her heyday as the star of The Mary Tyler Moore show (in the 1970s) and The Golden Girls (in the 1980s). From her supporting role in last summer's romantic comedy, The Proposal, to her Facebook-generated hosting gig on SNL (the series' highest-rated episode in 18 months) to her new role on TV Land's first sitcom, Hot in Cleveland, White offers timeless appeal to her her fan base, which spans multiple generations.


On the runways (most recently in Milan), it's back to the 1970s a la Mary Tyler Moore. Expect to see maxi-dresses, peasant blouses, jumpsuits, high-waisted pants, and wood platform shoes in stores next spring.


In 1982, 40% of U.S. auto production consisted of hatchbacks and station wagons; in 1998, that number had dropped to less than 6%. And now? Still weak, at under 10%. But sales of Ford's Fiesta suggest that we may be seeing the beginning of a shift in American acceptance of a car that has long been stigmatized for feeling cheap and frumpy, and for being poorly made (as exemplified by the Pinto). Ford's sales figures show that more than 60% of Fiesta buyers are choosing the five-door hatchback over the more traditional four-door sedans. Hatchbacks are also making up a growing percentage of model sales at Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru and even Suzuki


Smile, everyone! Polaroid, founded in 1937, is solvent again (after several bankruptcies), has partnered with 23-year old pop star, Lady Gaga, and is taking you back to simpler times with its Polaroid 300 instant camera. Smaller than its predecessor but larger than today's digital counterparts, it takes business card-size color photos and features classic Polaroid instant film, automatic flash and four scene settings. It retails for $89.99 (comes in blue, black or red); a ten-pack of Polaroid 300 instant film is $9.99.


While CD sales have taken a sustained hit (and continue to) since the introduction of digital music downloads, sales of vinyl records, invented some 72 years ago, have risen dramatically over the past several years. In fact, sales have jumped almost 300% -- from 858,000 in 2006 to a record-breaking 2.5 million in 2009, according to Nielsen Entertainment. Why the switch to vinyl when digital music is taking over as the new way of purchasing music? Audiophiles say in large part, it's about better sound quality.
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