The stock market soared on Monday on news from drug makers Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX): An interim analysis of the phase 3 clinical study of their coronavirus vaccine showed it to be much more effective than originally expected. If that holds once the full results are available -- and that's a big if -- the vaccine could be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.
With a light at the end of the tunnel, investors may be looking for some of the biggest beneficiaries of a coronavirus vaccine and the potential for a return to "normal." Some companies that have been among those hit hardest may be end up among the biggest beneficiaries in a post-pandemic world.
If you have as little as $1,000 (or less) in cash that you don't need for immediate expenses or to augment your emergency fund, buying shares in these companies could be sheer genius.
Disney: The Happiest Place on Earth meets pent-up demand
Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) has taken it on the chin due to coronavirus. The vast majority of the company's business segments were negatively impacted by the pandemic, with the obvious exception of Disney+, the streaming service that debuted nearly a year ago. However, consumer behavior will likely experience another paradigm shift, as pent-up demand sends people scurrying for some much-needed respite.
Of the company's business segments, Disney's theme parks have been the hardest-hit, with revenue down 85% year over year in its fiscal third quarter; its parks, experiences, and products unit took in less than $1 billion, down from more than $6.5 billion in the prior-year quarter. Disney remains locked in battle with the state of California to open Disneyland, while theme parks in Europe recently closed again amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
Disney's studio entertainment segment has also suffered, with revenue down 55% year over year to $1.7 billion (from $3.8 billion), as cinemas remain vast wastelands. As a result, the company has sent several high-profile movies to Disney+, including Hamilton and Soul. The live-action remake of Mulan moved to streaming as well, though subscribers had to fork over $30 to watch it. Several other potential blockbusters, including Marvel's Black Widow, Death on the Nile, and Ryan Reynolds' Free Guy, have been pulled from the release schedule -- presumably pushed into next year.
Considering all the pent-up demand for family outings, both theme parks and movie theaters will likely thrive in the post-pandemic world, and just getting back to normal could be a huge boost for Disney.
Starbucks: Back to the daily cup of joe
When the novel coronavirus first struck, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) was the canary in the coal mine as the outbreak began wreaking havoc across China. The company was among the first to sound the alarm, advising investors what to expect in the weeks and months to come. It eventually closed the majority of its stores, before pivoting primarily to a pickup and delivery model.
It's since been a tough year for Starbucks, with global comparable-store sales down 14% year over year, and revenue that declined 11% in fiscal 2020. With so many people working from home and fewer commuters, they weren't stopping by Starbucks for their daily caffeine fix.
Yet the fourth quarter offered a preview of what's to come, as consumers are eager to get back into their regular routines. Comparable-store sales were down just 9% in the U.S. and 3% in China, and revenue declined 8%. While that may not seem much to celebrate, consider this: In Q3, comparable sales declined 40%, while revenue fell 38% -- driven by a 51% slump in foot traffic. This shows just how far Starbucks has already come, but also how much further it has yet to go.
There are reasons to believe Starbucks will prosper in the months and years ahead. The company's industry-leading Starbucks Rewards program has continued to grow throughout the pandemic, closing out its fiscal fourth quarter (which ended Sept. 27) with 19.3 million active members in the U.S., up 10% year over year. Those customers are leading the company's recovery; they're responsible for 47% of transactions, up from 43% before COVID-19. Starbucks also reported increased momentum in the number of customers who downloaded the Starbucks app in the fourth quarter, which bodes well for the future.
A word of caution
It's important to keep in mind that the investing theses for Disney and Starbucks will play out over the coming years -- not months. Given recent news, the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine could be in limited use as early as next month, but isn't likely to be widely available until the third quarter of 2021.
So while each of these consumer discretionary stocks has excellent prospects over the long term, the coming year could still be a bumpy ride.