Slow vaccine rollout, new variants hampering business forecasts

The slow start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, along with the arrival of new virus variants, has dashed some business leaders’ hopes for getting back to normal in 2021, The Wall Street Journal reports

Consumers are unlikely to resume travel, dining out and shopping in stores at a pre-pandemic cadence until later this year, chiefs of some large companies told Wall Street analysts and investors in recent weeks. Some CEOs said consumer activity could pick up as soon as spring. Others pointed to a recovery later in the year—or even 2022. 

“Let me underscore that progress on economic growth is contingent on an effective vaccine rollout program globally,” says Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO David Solomon. “In its absence, economic recovery will be unnecessarily delayed.”  

The pandemic has unevenly bolstered and derailed growth prospects; divided workforces into staff able to shelter at home and those who must report in person for duty; and reshaped consumer purchasing as stay-at-home orders change. The rapid shifts have complicated financial forecasts and made consumer behavior hard to predict.  

John Idol, CEO of Capri Holdings Ltd., which owns Versace and Michael Kors, says online luxury spending is strong but the near-term outlook is challenged because jumps in COVID-19 cases have caused additional restrictions and temporary store closures.

The airline industry’s trade group cautioned that a recovery could be smaller than expected in 2021 after demand plunged by roughly two-thirds in 2020. Bookings in January 2021 were down 70% from a year ago. 

More than 120 U.S. CEOs surveyed by nonpartisan think tank The Conference Board between early November and early December said COVID-19 was their top concern and No. 1 potential business disrupter in 2021. After that, they said vaccine availability could have the greatest impact on their businesses. Problems with vaccine distribution in other countries could also derail U.S. businesses. Read the full story.