The official start of summer is now less than a week away, which can mean only one thing for a majority of American families: It's vacation time!
If we've learned anything about the American consumer, even when times were tough and consumer budgets were more constrained than they are now, many consider taking a vacation a necessity. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in late December noted that nearly three-quarters of the 1,038 people responded that they were going to take a vacation at least 100 miles from their home in 2013. With tourism spending in the fourth quarter alone totaling $1.5 trillion, it tells me there are clearly plenty of dollars out there to be made.
On many investors' watchlists as we head into the busy travel season are a few well-known companies. Disney (NYSE:DIS) is one such name that benefits from the summer vacation season as its theme parks see more visitors and its cruise ships stay busy. Disney also recently raised the price of admission into its U.S. theme parks, which should ultimately add some punch to its bottom line.
Another big beneficiary would be hotels such as Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR). Hotels that cater to a middle-class and upper-income individual are less likely to see a big fluctuation in hotel demand during the summer months. Some of the budget hotel chains could struggle a bit this summer as payroll taxes eat into consumers' disposable income, but Marriott looks poised to do just fine.
But, these names are on everyone's list. This doesn't make them bad companies by any means, but I love uncovering a good set of sleeper stocks. Today I intend to point out three beneficiaries of the summer travel season that few investors, if any, currently have on their watchlist.
Polaris Industries (NYSE:PII)
Nothing says a great time like getting on the back of an all-terrain vehicle and tearing up the countryside. Although ATVs can still be strong sellers in the winter months -- and it should be stated that the company also sells snowmobiles -- Polaris is the type of company that will see the bulk of its business come during the warm summer months. Polaris has stayed ahead of its peers by constantly innovating its product line and introducing a wide range of price points to cater to higher- and lower-income buyers. In Polaris' first quarter, it reported sales growth of 11% and actually upped its sales forecast for the remainder of the year to a range of 12% to 15%. It's a company that's firing on all cylinders, and I think it could make for a very sneaky vacation beneficiary.
Summer is all about being outside and taking up various sports and activities with friends and family. A little-known beneficiary could be action-sports apparel and accessories retailer Zumiez. It's pretty easy to be distrusting of the action-sports sector as a whole, because Pacific Sunwear and Quiksilver's inability to get the right product in its stores over the past couple of years doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in youth-oriented action-sports retailers. However, Zumiez has maintained strong pricing power through careful inventory management and has resisted the urge to expand into new locations beyond its ability to control that inventory. If consumers need surf, beach, or biking gear heading into summer, there's a possibility that Zumiez could be their destination.
Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD)
Just because consumers refuse to give up their ability to take a vacation doesn't mean they aren't looking for other creative ways to save a dollar. Unless you're staying with family, you don't have much choice when it comes to food -- you have to eat out. I'm going out on a limb and projecting that Buffalo Wild Wings will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of consumers who dine out this summer. If you've kept up with the company's rapid expansion, you'd notice that it's moving into warmer, hot-spot vacation destinations within the United States. In addition, it's been adding new menu items that are reasonably priced and won't break a family of four's bank. With BWW's big sports-bar appeal and NCAA sponsorship, getting traffic into its restaurants this summer shouldn't be difficult. As long as chicken prices cooperate, I expect a sizable upside surprise from BWW in the coming quarters.
Do you have a vacation-oriented stock on your radar? Share it with the community in the comments section below.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
The Motley Fool owns shares of, and recommends, Buffalo Wild Wings and Disney. It also recommends Polaris Industries. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.