Is it the beginning of the end? With the Covid vaccine shots now being administered, we all hope this nightmare ends quickly.
But is it also end of the end? For better or worse, the Covid crisis will likely result in some systemic, permanent changes in the fiber of America…changes ranging from how we communicate to how we stay fit to how we have fun.
Home exercise equipment sales are up from 130% to 259%, depending on the type of equipment. When Covid is gone, and things get back to “normal,” will fitness buffs sell this new equipment to get in the car and drive to a gym? Maybe a few, but I think America is learning what I learned long ago. It’s a lot easier at 5:30am to walk to a spare room in my boxers than to dress up, drive to a gym, and hope the equipment I use isn’t already in use.
Home and home office furniture sales also went through the roof. Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller reports a 300% increase in sales this year. People are making homes nicer, and setting up comfortable, functional home offices. I predict a lot of people will keep working from home long term, having a significant impact on gas sales, auto sales, auto repairs, auto collisions, auto fatalities, and even Starbucks drive-through coffee sales.
Without the commute to work, many families will decide they don’t need two or three cars. I expect this trend will remain in place when people realize how much money they are saving on car payments and insurance without having multiple vehicles. And more garage space means more space for all that home exercise equipment.
As more people work from home, businesses will need less office space. This will cause commercial building rents to moderate (maybe decline), and building values to react similarly because unlike homes, commercial property prices are largely driven by annual rent roll.
Now that we’ve grown accustomed to eating at home, I don’t think we’ll see a rapid spring-back. With companies like UberEats, Postmates and Doordash ramping up service and improving their smartphone apps to make ordering food as easy as summoning an Uber, fewer people will go out to restaurants. After all, you can have your favorite foods delivered to your door faster (and less expensively) than it would take you to drive there, order, eat, and leave a 20% tip. Of course, you’ll also want to entertain more in your post Covid home, which is likely an enhanced version of what it was before March.
USA Today reported that, “An organization of independent restaurateurs estimated that as many as 85% of the individual restaurants and small restaurant groups around the country might close permanently by the end of 2020.” While this is sad, it should help restaurants that survive. While there may be fewer restaurant-goers overall, there will be fewer restaurants to compete with, so the survivors may not suffer at all.
Pet supply sales are up 80 percent, and people are adopting pets at record numbers. With more pets in the home, people have even more incentive to work from home, eat at home, and maybe even travel less. Prior to Covid, we were planning to vacation at Walloon Lake, Michigan this past summer. We wouldn’t have considered leaving our one-year old Cavachon, Maverick, at home.
With the acceleration of people buying online, consumerism may never be the same. Economists predict Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos could become the world’s first trillionaire in the next five years. E commerce was huge before the pandemic, but in the post Covid world, it is going to eclipse even the wildest of predictions.
Tech Crunch reported, “As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes our world, more consumers have begun shopping online in greater numbers and frequency. According to new data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years.
In the first quarter of 2020, department store sales and those from other ‘non-essential’ retailers declined by 25%. This grew to a 75% decline in the second quarter. The report indicates that department stores sales are expected to decline by over 60% for the full year.”
Travel came to a grinding halt last March, and projections are it may be years before it returns to pre-Covid levels. More pets, nicer homes, more people used to Zoom video communication with family, and the headaches of air travel will prevent a quick bounceback.
On December 6, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 837,137 passengers at U.S. airports, compared with almost 2.3 million passengers screened in the same weekday one year earlier. In April 2020, revenue passenger kilometers (RPK) had declined by 98.4 percent on international routes. Unfortunately, it may be a long road back for airlines and hotels.
There is an “urban exodus” taking place. People are leaving big cities to live in rural areas where they can enjoy the space and comfort of a bigger space for less money while working from home. Employment usually dictates where a person lives, and because the complexion of the workforce has changed so drastically, much of it will remain constant as we transition back to normal.
Forbes reported that, “Data from moving companies indicate a significant uptick in moving activity and a material shift in where people are moving to. In an analysis of their user data, online mover marketplace HireAHelper found that the pandemic has driven an abnormally high percentage of emigration out of major urban centers like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Greater Washington D.C.”
The Challenge in Change
Amazon hires while brick and mortar shops need fewer workers. UberEats hires drivers while indoor restaurants need fewer servers. Gas sales decline while car fatalities decline too.
Change typically involves some good and some bad. I think Victor Frankl summed it up well:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”