I went to the Outer Banks for a family reunion over the weekend, and I decided to take the family to Cedar Fair's (NYSE: FUN ) Kings Dominion en route. I wasn't sure how much we would be able to do, arriving at 4 p.m. during the peak month of July.
My concerns were unfounded. Between an overcast sky and the fact that the park's most popular coaster -- the erupting Volcano -- was closed, we were able to walk onto every coaster. Really. If we wanted to sit in the front, our wait might be extended to a whole three minutes. It was a good thing, too, since we were done with everything we wanted to do by the time a hellacious thunderstorm moved in three hours later.
"There is no way that this park is turning a profit today," my son said, as we had an entire coaster train on the stand-up Shockwave coaster to ourselves. Unless the park was brimming with summer camp groups earlier in the day, he was probably right.
Coupled with the ample elbow room I found at a few amusement parks in Southern California two weeks ago, I'm starting to doubt my theory that regional amusement parks will come out as big winners from the economic stimulus checks that began going out in May.
That's bad news for my portfolio, as someone invested in both Cedar Fair and the financially wobbly Six Flags (NYSE: SIX ) . It also leads me to wonder where the rebate checks are actually being spent.
They're obviously not being cashed by budding entrepreneurs. This week's glum forecast from Office Depot (NYSE: ODP ) indicates that money isn't being spent by sole proprietors to get their home offices going. Yesterday's disappointing quarterly report from Sealy (NYSE: ZZ ) , and the mattress maker's reference to trends worsening in June, means that we're not choosing to invest in a better night's sleep, either.
Can it be? Are we actually doing the sensible thing and using those rebate checks to pay down debt or launch investing strategies? Probably not.
If you want to know where the money is going, follow the comps. This morning found BJ's Wholesale Club (NYSE: BJ ) posting a head-turning 16.5% improvement in same-store sales for the month of June. Over at master discounter Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , comps rose a healthy 5.8% once you back out the buoyant fuel sales.
Most of the specialty retailers and conventional department store chains aren't even coming close. Hip retailer Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO ) may be bucking the mall malaise with the 12% spike in June comps it's reporting this morning, but it seems that discounters are making the most of those economic stimulus checks.
Spending less on stuff we may actually need? Maybe we're doing the sensible thing after all.
What did you do with your stimulus check, if you got one? Let us know by using the comment box below.
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