As Americans have become more affluent, pools, hunting and music have crept their way up the ladder of leisure activities Americans most desire and investors lust after. This historical look at the last century will help you understand the initial growth of this still-burgeoning leisure market.
The swimming-pool industry is a relatively young industry expanding at a rapid rate. Swimming Pool Age, the leading trade publication, predicted that the number of permanent pools would grow from 254,200 in 1959 to 2 million in 1970. Although most of the pools are in sunny California and Florida, their popularity is also growing in less-favored climates.
Another important, though far less-favored sport, marketwise, is hunting, which seems to have been largely neglected by investors at a time when other leisure-time stocks have been booming.
It seems to have occurred to few people, said Capital Gains Research Bureau, Inc., "that hunting as a sport has also been increasing rapidly in recent years, being participated in by an estimated 15,000,000 men and women (14,500,000 men-500,000 women) . . . fully 50 percent more than at the end of the war."
That securities-research organization singled out Remington Arms Co., Inc., as a good investment on a long-term basis. Remington Arms is one of America's two largest producers of sporting rifles, shotguns, ammunition, etc., and was seen by Capital Gains Research to have the following main merits as an investment: (1) strong backing from duPont which held 60.17 percent of Remington common and 99.57 percent of Remington preferred; (2) top-grade management with a strong financial position; and (3) outstanding new product development, including its "revolutionary new nylon '66' rifle" and a new premium-grade shotgun shell guaranteed to perform under the roughest hunting conditions.
The leisure-time boom has also brought on a musical boom. In 1959, music-happy Americans spent a record $550 million for musical instruments. That more than doubled the 1949 sales of $220 million and represented a growth rate of 78 percent faster than the rise in personal consumption spending during the same period.
Participating in this boom are children as well as adults, the latter group obviously lured by quick-learning instruments and techniques to acquire what they missed at an early age when learning was a far more difficult process.
Simplified musical courses are helped by simplified, easy-to-play instruments, some of which are push-button, electrified, automated, etc. With some of the electronic organs, for instance, you can now learn to play a tune in hours.
"The modern way of teaching violin is to have the student playing a tune within three months," said Reuben Olson, president of violin distributor William Lewis & Sons. He told The Wall Street Journal. "In the former days, you played nothing but the scales for a year."
Typical of the prosperous musical instrument makers is the "recently gone- public" Chicago Musical Instrument whose stock just about tripled within a few months after its offering in 1960. Chicago Musical manufactures a broad line of musical instruments, including Lowery electronic organs.
America is indeed "the affluent society" of Dr. John Kenneth Galbraith, with people spending much money on hair restorers, thigh reducers, backyard swimming pools, fintailed automobiles, "lodges," foreign travels.
Americans are earning far much more money than is needed to provide the daily necessities. This "excess" money is what economists call "discretionary income." It is the income that remains after taxes and necessary daily expenditures. In the old days most men worked as much as ten or even twelve hours a day just to feed, clothe and shelter their families.
Today, a staggering $104 billion or over one third of disposable income can be spent on nonessentials. An investor's job is to locate this "discretionary income" and invest his money accordingly.
Disposable income, especially in the youngest consumers, continues to drive the leisure markets today as much or more as it did in the 1960s. Be aware of this, and make your investment decisions accordingly.