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I think these small-cap stocks are the best buy-and-hold UK shares in a post-pandemic world

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The significant upside growth potential of investing in small-cap stocks is a huge advantage they have over their FTSE 100 blue-chip counterparts. Combine this with depressed share prices as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent stock market crash, and I think there’s a lucrative investment opportunity on the cards.

As lockdown restrictions in the UK are gently eased, pubs, restaurants, and non-essential retailers are back open for business. Much of the impact remains to be seen, but the economy is showing early signs of a steady recovery. For investors chasing market-beating returns, I think these small-cap stocks are among the best UK shares to buy-and-hold over the coming years.

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Best UK shares to buy and hold in a post-pandemic world

Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Gym Group’s (LSE: GYM) share price is down 52% since mid-February after plunging 75% in the depths of the sell-off. After all, the budget fitness provider lost around a fifth of its membership during the lockdown period as facilities closed across the nation. However, with indoor gyms given the go-ahead to re-open their doors from 25 July, things are beginning to look up.

The group had been growing at an impressive rate prior to outbreak of Covid-19 thanks to the strength of its low-cost business model. Moreover, provided the company can recover a sufficient portion of its membership, the shares should continue to rise. For those able to stomach the additional risk, I reckon that on balance, the risk-reward picture is sufficiently attractive to justify a buy-and-hold purchase.

Another company lifted by the easing of lockdown restrictions is Marston’s (LSE: MARS). Hit hard by the sell-off, the pub stock’s share price is still down by 62% in 2020. The company will inevitably face financial hardship over the coming months given its first-half profit fell by more than 70%.

That said, Marston’s dominant market position and large customer base will be of immense help. As Brits make a swift return to local pubs and restaurants, Marston’s will be a huge beneficiary. I expect significant share price appreciation and healthy dividends in the years to come.

A contrarian pick

Finally, as a perhaps contrarian pick, I think Boohoo (LSE: BOO) could be a fantastic buy-and-hold investment. The company has stumbled upon difficult times recently regarding working conditions, and its share price has tanked as a result. However, the company has since pledged to raise standards. Hence, its brand may not be affected poorly over the long term.

Boohoo’s popularity, especially among young people, should not be underestimated and the underlying business strategy is extremely effective. In fact, I think there’s plenty more room for the company to grow over the coming years. Consequently, I see the share price pullback as an opportunity to buy at a discount.

Ultimately, each of these small-cap stocks boasts huge upside potential over the long term, in my eyes. As such, I reckon they justify their place among the best UK shares to buy and hold in a post-pandemic world.

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Matthew Dumigan has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended boohoo group, Marstons, and The Gym Group. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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