When the pandemic struck, the impact on many businesses were profound. The travel and tourism industry felt the immediate effects of lockdowns and quarantines. The same was true of restaurants, bars, and various hospitality services. But not every sector suffered the same consequences, and in fact, many specific industries actually thrived. While the pandemic posed serious threats to some, it was a blessing to others from an economic perspective. But as we move ever so closer to a post-pandemic world, will these same businesses continue to excel? Or could there be a new post-pandemic normal that requires them to face a new reality?
In recent months, several developments suggest many businesses that soared during COVID may be facing some rocky times ahead. While consumer behaviors changed during lockdowns, these same preferences may not last. As a result, businesses that believed a post-pandemic world might mirror a pandemic one may have to reconsider their perspective. Those that are willing to adapt, and do so rapidly, are among those likely to survive. But for those that fail to properly assess a new post-pandemic normal, the results may be less favorable. In other words, the pandemic giveth, and the post-pandemic may taketh away.
“The soaring stock prices that peaked for so many specialized companies amid the worst of the pandemic were never poised to have stuck around.” – Chase Hinderstein, Senior Portfolio Manager, Wise Investor Group at Baird
The Winners During the Pandemic
As COVID-19 spread across the globe, naturally consumers reacted to the changing times. Lockdowns and curfews meant physical access was much more limited. As a result, consumers increasingly turned to online and delivery options instead of in-person consumption. Likewise, the threat of infection and illness fueled these trends further. And as new variants of COVID emerged, the possibility of a post-pandemic world seemed like a fantasy instead of a reality. This resulted in some expected business winners over the course of the last two years. And several believed pandemic consumer behaviors would extend into a new post-pandemic world.
With this in mind, a number of specific industries grew rapidly during the first year of the pandemic. Companies involved in sanitizing and cleaning naturally saw a boom in sales. Likewise, health and virtual fitness enterprises saw consumers flock toward their services as gyms closed and group fitness activities ceased. (Dive deeper into the rise of the virtual fitness industry in this Bold story.) And most noticeably, streaming entertainment services and delivery companies saw their clientele increase exponentially. But these same companies today are no longer seeing such growth as we inch close to a post-pandemic world. And many suggest their success may be much more limited as the dust of a new post-pandemic normal settles.
“The ones that jumped out in the initial leap because they had the infrastructure ready to go are now losing a little market share as the other companies ramp up and catch up in those spaces.” – David Sacco, University of New Haven Finance Department
A Glimpse of the New Post-Pandemic Normal
Despite Omicron and Delta, there have been some notable shifts in recent months. With the COVID vaccines and booster, many states are much more open. Lockdowns have vanished, and even mask requirements are less strict. With these changes have come some significant changes in company valuations and sales. And by all accounts, it looks like a post-pandemic world will be much different than what many businesses believe. Here’s a look at some of the most recent business developments that highlight this point.
- Peloton – In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Peloton had a little more than $700 million in sales. But in 2020, sales reached $1.8 billion, and in 2021, exceeded $4 billion. Given these figures, the company invested heavily in its high-tech bicycles, assuming the good times would last. But now that gyms have reopened and consumers have other options, Peloton has experienced a serious decline. In December alone, Peloton’s share price fell 80% as a shift to post-pandemic world has occurred. And while product recalls and bad publicity have played a role, its main downfall has been excessive inventory. Based on this, it’s quite unlikely Peloton will thrive in a new post-pandemic normal.
- Netflix – As millions were stuck inside their homes during lockdowns, it was easy to predict Netflix’s success. Inexpensive entertainment and a captive audience provide great recipe ingredients of success for the online streaming giant. But it too appears to now be struggling in a post-pandemic world. This past year, Netflix enjoyed 222 million subscribers. But while this seems noteworthy, the figure represents its lowest totals since 2015. Combine this with a decline in its stock price by 20%, and it’s understandable why investors are concerned. The new post-pandemic normal may similarly be unkind to Netflix without some major changes.
- Zoom – Believe it or not, Zoom’s share price before the pandemic was roughly $70 a share. But over the ensuing year, the company’s valuation grew by 700%. With telehealth demands and remote videoconferencing on the rise, Zoom was an obvious choice. The company was well-positioned to take full advantage of consumer shifts. But despite many workers insisting on remote work, Zoom’s stock has plummeted. Today, it hovers around $150 a share, which is markedly less than it was at its peak. In a post-pandemic world, the demand for videoconferencing will be less than it was. And more importantly for Zoom, the new post-pandemic normal will include many quality competitors.
One Thing the Pandemic Didn’t Change
Dealing with the effects of a global pandemic isn’t easy, and companies that excelled during this time deserve recognition. But one thing common to both a pre-pandemic and post-pandemic world is the need for businesses to be adaptable. Many companies found that they had to be dynamic and flexible to survive over the last couple of years. And this will remain true for businesses as they enter into a new post-pandemic world. Some, like the ones mentioned here, are finding it difficult to adapt quickly enough. But once again, those that find a way will be the ones best positioned for future success. Most likely, the new post-pandemic normal will be a hybrid model, representing a mix of old and new consumer preferences. It will be important for all businesses to figure this out so they can best translate this shift into ongoing success.