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The pop-up canvas camper pandemic theory

Editorial | November 1, 2020 | By:

Following the 2008 economic crash, lipstick was all over the news. According to the “lipstick recession theory,” consumers facing a recession stop making luxury purchases, like jewelry and high-end vehicles, while still allowing for small indulgences, like lipstick. 

But the theory doesn’t hold up to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Who needs lipstick when you never leave home, or when you are wearing a mask … or when you are camping? 

In 2020, replacement canvas for pop-up campers is the new lipstick. 

During a pre-pandemic Perspective interview with Specialty Fabrics Review, Bob Grambsch, owner of Loyal, Wis.-based Canvas Replacements, admitted that he sometimes asks himself if demand for replacement canvas covers for pop-up campers will come to end. “It hasn’t happened yet,” he said. And it’s not happening in 2020. Although he had to close his shop for several weeks in the spring because of his state’s stay-at-home order, Grambsch’s biggest problem by the summer was finding skilled labor to meet demand. As it turned out, when stay-at-home orders were lifted, a lot of folks looked at their old campers, saw a way to get back into the world while maintaining social distance, and happily announced, “Honey, we can still take a vacation!”

Canvas Replacements isn’t the only company within our industry riding the pandemic roller coaster. Tented events are one of the hardest hit segments of the entire U.S. economy, but by September, the Wall Street Journal declared tents a “hot back-to-school item.” The surge in demand for outdoor classrooms left Anchor Industries of Evansville, Ind., in a situation similar to Grambsch—struggling to find workers to meet demand. At the same time, the company had to close its factory for one day for deep cleaning when an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

“The demand is so great, yet this virus throws day-to-day operations into some pretty nerve-racking situations,” Dave Conner, Anchor chief operating officer, told the Journal.

Conversations around these issues are being conducted virtually at IFAI Expo 2020, set to start just as this issue is posted online. We’ll report on those conversations and all virtual Expo education and highlights next month—and we’ll keep riding that roller coaster with our readers into 2021 and beyond.

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