Six months ago, the World Health Organization still hadn’t formally named COVID-19 a global pandemic. But the writing was already on the wall that changes in consumer behavior and government shutdowns would dramatically impact several sectors.
Now that we’re into September, we have a much clearer picture of how both governments and consumers are responding to the pandemic. This enables us to forecast the industries that won’t see “recovery” anytime soon… no matter what the government may require or restrict.
Even as consumer spending has recovered to close to pre-COVID-19 levels, recovery hasn’t been equal across all industries. Below, we detail three key sectors that are likely to suffer through a slower recovery than others.
Victim No. 1: Travel & Tourism
About the only part of the travel industry that has seen growth since February 2020 is the RV rental business. An RV is the one form of travel that guarantees social distancing.
U.S. airline travel is down by a whopping 75% compared to the same period in 2019. It goes without saying that cruise lines won’t return to pre-COVID-19 levels – perhaps ever. Even if government regulations allowed it, consumers will be very slow to return to pre-COVID travel patterns.
Las Vegas, which had grand reopening plans for July 2020, has already started to realize that it just doesn’t matter that it’s open. It’s having a hard time convincing consumers it’s safe to sit around blackjack or roulette tables.
MGM Resorts announced a layoff of more than 25% of its U.S. workforce through the end of 2020, and both American Airlines and Southwest have begun permanent layoffs as well.
Analysts estimate that airline and hotel travel won’t fully “recover” until 2022. And frankly, we may never see that recovery in the cruise industry.
Victim No. 2: Malls & Shopping Centers
U.S. consumer retail has dramatically changed this year, with a significant shift toward digital shopping. That accelerated once shutdown orders were in place.
But just as importantly, we’ve seen a massive and dramatic consolidation of buying behavior toward a few major retail chains. Those seem to be Amazon, Walmart, CVS, and major grocery chains.
This shift in behavior has come at the expense of shopping malls and small businesses, which have been utterly devastated. Two of America’s largest mall operators have announced permanent layoffs in the last couple of weeks, and the anchor-store bloodbath continues. JCPenney recently announced it will liquidate all assets as part of its ongoing bankruptcy process.
Even if COVID-19 ended tomorrow, it’s increasingly unlikely the good, old-fashioned shopping mall will be what it once was to the U.S. consumer.
Victim No. 3: U.S. Manufacturing
Several U.S. manufacturers that serve the travel industry have also announced major layoffs. This includes Boeing and Raytheon. But it also includes manufacturers that make products sold at mall-based retailers, such as Estée Lauder, Revlon, and Ulta.
Until travel and shopping return, industries that relied on big consumer spending in the traditional way will have to continue to consolidate to survive.
Meanwhile, for investors who have the means to invest, there’s plenty to keep them busy. Zoom (ZM), Tesla (TSLA), and Apple (AAPL) have all hit fresh all-time-high market capitalization in recent days. U.S. technology is the one sector that has enjoyed 2020’s economic shift.
The only question that remains unanswered is, how long can it last?