Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers in 2020 and a preview of what the year ahead might bring.
Loser: Travel and Hospitality
What’s next: The industry is hoping for a rebound as cooped-up would-be travelers look to hit the road in 2021 once vaccines are widely available, but it’s not clear whether business travel — the life blood of the industry — will approach pre-pandemic levels at a time when video conference calls are working out just fine.
The rise of socially conscious investing helped carry the solar industry to a blockbuster year. Investors increasingly view fossil fuel companies as the prime contributor to the climate crisis — and they’re betting solar firms are a crucial part of the solution.
Booming financial markets also helped cushion the blow with banks cashing in as IPOs and debt sales surged. If Wall Street’s V-shaped recovery spreads to Main Street, banks stand to be winners in 2021. — Matt Egan
The airline industry had awful years in the past, but none were as devastatingly horrendous as 2020.
Winner: Video games
The pandemic devastated mall owners. Most malls were forced to close during lockdown orders of the spring, and the wave of bankruptcies by tenants left them with billions in unpaid rent.
What’s next: The future of malls will depend on how successful they are finding non-traditional tenants to take the place of retailers who will not be returning. Malls were in deep trouble before the pandemic, which only exacerbated their declines. — Chris Isidore
Winner: Big Retail
Those stores were deemed essential and were allowed to remain open during the spring when many other stores were forced to close. Target and Walmart also increased their online sales thanks to curbside pickup.
What’s next: Big retailers aren’t expected to lose any ground once the pandemic ends, even if the pace of sales growth slows down. They ramped up their digital operations in 2020 and are well-positioned to succeed in the future, even after customers feel comfortable shopping at local stores again. — Chris Isidore
Winner: Big Tech
Technology emerged a winner during the pandemic as cloud and connectivity services thrived in a stay-at-home world.
Traditional manufacturing had a very tough year. Industrial production plunged 16.5% between February and April. Even after rebounding, the nation’s factories are still producing at 5% below their pre-pandemic levels. America’s aluminum production is down 8.1% while steel production is down 18%.
What’s next: The manufacturing sector continues to be an important part of the US economy. But every time it goes through a downturn like this, it rarely bounces back to its previous level. So the importance of manufacturing to the nation’s overall economic health will almost certainly continue to wane. — Chris Isidore
Twitch downloads jumped 61% worldwide from January to November, according to Apptopia, a mobile app and business intelligence company. Patreon, a social and membership platform for content creators, grew 43%, and downloads of Cameo, an app that allows you to pay for celebrity shout-outs, rose 134%. These platforms allowed creators to produce content easier, broadcast it further and also monetize it. That’s due in part to pandemic lockdowns that have helped redefine the creator landscape of who gets noticed and why — with social media serving as the megaphone for the content these creators share and post.
Loser: Movie Theaters
What’s next: Streaming is clearly here to stay. Warner Bros. made the bold decision to release all of its films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. Disney+ has recorded electric growth with an impressive slate for 2021 and beyond. And Netflix continues to spend big to produce the original content that has made it so popular. –Frank Pallotta