ECONOMY

‘Unstoppable Desire’ for Travel Coming After Covid, Levchin Says

Consumers are about to unleash a flood of spending money on weddings, fancy clothes and travel, said Max Levchin of payments company Affirm Holdings Inc.

There will be “a quarter, or maybe a year, of unstoppable desire to not be in the same city or same four walls,” Levchin, Affirm’s chief executive officer, said in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “The question is, how long will it take for people to say, ‘OK, I’ve got the travel bug out of the way?’”

Levchin’s firm, which allows customers to make monthly payments for their purchases, has been striking partnerships in industries where he expects consumer demand to bounce back post-pandemic, including with companies such as American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and David’s Bridal. He doesn’t expect all pre-virus behavior to return — going to the gym, for example, will be less appealing for many people. Levchin said he sees consumers continuing to rely on at-home exercise equipment instead.

His insight into consumer behavior is based partly on Affirm’s relationship with a wide array of retailers, such as Peloton Interactive Inc. and Walmart Inc. Investors have been concerned about how quickly and strongly consumer spending will recover as Americans feel more comfortable dining out, traveling and being in crowded spaces with more of the population getting vaccinated. Affirm has risen more than 50% since going public in January, though it’s tumbled more than 45% since its February peak.

“Everyone wants to go to Miami right now, and it’s a pretty good preview of what’s going to happen — you’ll see a good amount of travel, experience buying, all sorts of fun stuff is coming our way,” Levchin said. Yet, he added, there’s a question remaining: “What’s the satiation curve?”

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