Extremely loose monetary and fiscal policies during the pandemic have created distortions and disequilibria throughout the economy. The most visible bubbles may be in financial markets, evidenced by the boundless valuations applied to visionary startups and the speculative fascination for digital assets of all types. This report examines a bubble of a different kind; not a financial bubble but rather a real-world bubble in “fun”. Producers of recreational goods are flourishing during the pandemic, posting massive sales gains and a tripling of net income, yet selling for miniscule valuations.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought a sudden halt to social gatherings, crowd events, and even personal contacts. Experiential business models were hardest hit by forced closures and lockdowns; cruise ships were forbidden to sail, restaurants and theme parks were closed, and air travel and hotel occupancy dwindled, all in an attempt to minimize personal interactions. The stocks of leisure services companies took a beating in March 2020, with Chart 1 documenting the virus’ impact on 34 large and midcap stocks representing this theme.
A strong argument can be made that experiential consumer services was the economic sector hardest hit by the pandemic lockdown. Cruise ships were forbidden to sail, restaurants and theme parks were closed, and air travel and hotel occupancy dwindled—all in an attempt to minimize personal/public interaction. The stocks of experiential companies took a beating in March 2020.