: The pandemic has accelerated trends that could add value to these stocks

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected companies and consumers alike, as both adjust to a new world of changing behaviors and requirements.

For some sectors it has accelerated trends that already existed, such as the shift to online shopping, and for others it has spawned something entirely new, such as drinks giants and fashion brands making personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers.

These changes will become a new normal for many companies — one of the few upsides from the deadly coronavirus that has wreaked havoc around the world.

And read this opinion: How the COVID-19 pandemic can be the push forward that the planet needs

The pandemic has also changed the landscape for investors — the savvy should tap in fast to sectors and companies prospering from the pandemic whose strategy, borne out of tough times, has been adopted as their new model.

Already these companies have started talking about the new normal.


German meal-kit delivery company HelloFresh HFG, +0.07% said in its November 2020 quarterly report that it believes the trend of ordering-in both prepared food and meal kits will continue after the pandemic. “The trend towards eating more meals at home accelerated during the pandemic and we consider the key drivers for this to have become permanent,” said Dominik Richter, the chief executive of the company, which sends subscribers preportioned ingredients with a step-by-step guide to create meals.

More: HelloFresh is sizzling as demand for recipe box kits send shares soaring 150% this year

Online grocer Ocado OCDO, -0.45% has seen sales boom during the pandemic, as locked-down shoppers switched to its delivery service. The retailer-turned-tech-giant posted a 35% rise in retail sales to £2.2 billion ($ 3.03 billion) for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 29, 2020. In February, Chief Executive Tim Steiner said: “The rapid acceleration of many pre-existing trends in business and society has been a feature of the COVID-19 crisis and the dramatic channel shift in grocery is a clear example of this.

“The landscape for food retailing is changing, for good. As we look ahead to a post-vaccine world and a return to a new normality…Many customers who have tried online grocery for the first time have seen the benefits and are saying they are unlikely to revert to precrisis shopping habits.”

Read: Kroger Partner Ocado is Thriving. Here’s Why It May Disappoint Investors.

Luxury goods

Luxury brands, which used to be reluctant to dilute the value of their products by selling them online, have been forced by the pandemic to invest in and expand their e-commerce networks, including selling through third parties. E-commerce is expected to generate almost one-third of all global luxury sales by the middle of the decade, according to estimates by consulting firm Bain & Company.

They are also focusing on China to offset dependence on tourism, amid an unprecedented collapse in global travel.

Essential reading: China’s ‘unstoppable’ global luxury-market share nearly doubles amid pandemic

Kering KER, +0.39% fashion label Gucci said in December that it will open two flagship stores on Alibaba’s online luxury-shopping platform, which has more than 750 million Chinese consumers. Farfetch FTCH, +0.68% announced a partnership with Alibaba and Richemont CFR, -0.14% that includes an expansion in the Chinese market and a $ 600 million investment.

A report from Accenture published in August looking into retail consumers’ habits predicted that e-commerce purchases will increase by 169% post-pandemic.

“The dramatic rise in the adoption of e-commerce and omnichannel services, which has been evident since the start of our research, sees no sign of abating. The latest data suggests there will be a huge increase of 169% in e-commerce purchases from new or low frequency users, post-outbreak,” the report noted.

More on the expected post-pandemic boom: Prepare for ‘a big beauty party’ and the ‘roaring 20s’ post COVID-19, says L’Oréal

Consumer goods

Ben & Jerry’s maker Unilever’s chief executive said in January that the company’s workers will never return to five days a week behind an office desk. Speaking at the Reuters Next conference, Alan Jope said he was confident that Unilever would use a hybrid model of working between homes and offices after the pandemic abates. “We anticipate never going back to five days a week in the office. That seems very old-fashioned now.”

In November, Unilever ULVR, +0.78% announced that it was set to start a year-long trial of a four-day week at its offices in New Zealand.

Consumers and companies have shifted toward digital payments during COVID-19. Here’s what a cashless society may mean for the future.

In October, restaurant group Fulham Shore FUL, -4.85% said it would use its low-debt position to capitalize on cheap rents and vacant kitchens caused by the pandemic to expand its pizzeria chain Franco Manca. 

The restaurant group, which also runs The Real Greek chain, told investors in October that it is “well positioned” to benefit from structural changes to the sector, which has been one of the hardest hit by U.K. government-ordered closures to contain the spread of coronavirus. “With rents likely to be falling for the next few years and more sites becoming available, the future looks promising for Fulham Shore.”


South Korean electronics giant Samsung called its presentation at the 2021 CES show a “Better Normal for All,” using the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect of keeping millions of people at home as a jump point for their new innovations.

“Our world looks different, and many of you have been faced with a new reality –one where, among other things, your home has taken on a greater significance,” said Sebastian Seung, the president and head of Samsung Research.

Samsung’s newest products focus on improving home technology, including bringing activities typically done outside of the home — like working out — indoors. The company is now integrating fitness plans and pushing a new home workout experience with Samsung Health Smart Trainer. 

Also read: CES brings new devices to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Philips, PHG, +1.67% the Dutch health and technology giant, says that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of tele-health products and services.

With coronavirus keeping patients with all but the most serious ailments at home, and preventing doctors from meeting in-person as regularly, remote communication in healthcare has taken off in the new normal. Advances have also come in how doctors treat patients outside of health centers, with the pandemic accelerating innovation in health monitoring, especially in at-risk patients that would normally regularly visit doctors, such as pregnant women.

More on industry shifts: Siemens’ Transition From Industrial Giant to High-Tech Player Is Picking Up Steam. The Stock Jumped 6%.

Computer-peripherals maker Logitech LOGN, +1.18% has emerged as a big winner during the pandemic, as demand for its products has surged. The work-from-home trend has boosted sales of webcams and keyboards, while growing demand for gaming has helped sales of the company’s gaming accessories. But Logitech doesn’t see demand returning to normal after the pandemic. Chief Executive Bracken Darrell said the company has invested in what it describes as “long-term growth trends” in remote work and education, video collaboration, esports and digital content creation.


Emerging-markets lender Standard Chartered STAN, +1.70% has teamed up with office provider IWG for “near-home” workspaces for staff, in a major move to allow permanent flexible working. The agreement allows the London-based bank’s 95,000 employees to access 3,500 offices around the world for a trial period of 12 months.

In October, HSBC HSBA, +2.72% said that its 230,000 employees worldwide could adopt “hybrid” working practices, including two or three days in the office and two or three days at home.

More inside finance: How companies are becoming creative with accounting during the COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, Citigroup C, +0.68% announced in December plans to offer employees who have been at the bank for five years, 12-week sabbaticals. Workers would get 25% of their base pay during their time away. Employees will also be able to buy up to five extra vacation days a year starting in 2021, and the bank is reviewing which roles may benefit from some element of home working.


José Baselga, executive vice president of oncology research and development at AstraZeneca AZN, -1.02%, said that the social restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced the U.K.-Swedish drug company to rethink how it conducts clinical trials and communicates with patients and internally. AstraZeneca is putting extra effort and investment into dealing with patients remotely, using online tools like telemedicine, electronic consent, and real-time data monitoring.


Educational publisher Pearson PSON, -0.62% said the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated demand for digital learning, and Chief Executive Andy Bird said the company had made a number of key hires to keep that momentum going in the year ahead.