September 15, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! You’ve likely known the pain of having your favorite show canceled out of nowhere, especially if you’re a Max subscriber — the Warner Bros-owned streamer scrapped ~27% of its shows from 2020-23. Today we're exploring:

  • Triple strike: Electrification is an important part of the unprecedented auto workers strike.
  • Streaming royalty: Olivia Rodrigo's catapulted herself into the music streaming elite.
  • Birkenstocks: The humble sandal maker is set to IPO.
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Triple strike

Members of the United Auto Workers union are on strike, with thousands walking out of three plants in Missouri, Michigan and Ohio this morning, as negotiations between the UAW and the “big three” — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis — reach a tipping point.

The walkouts mark the first time in history that the UAW has struck against all 3 of America’s unionized automakers simultaneously. The action comes after the union’s demands for more pay, fewer working hours, a return to previous pension provisions and cost-of-living adjustments were dismissed by the big 3. The latest demand, a 36% pay rise, suggests that the two negotiating sides remain far apart on the big issues.

Going electric

Although it's not the main factor at play, the switch to electrification is an important part of the discussions. Tesla’s workforce, for example, is not unionized — and there’s growing concern that, because EVs require fewer parts than their combustion engine counterparts, they may require fewer assembly workers in the future.

Interestingly, the data suggests that Tesla isn’t (yet) as labor efficient as its peers. Tesla’s rapid growth saw it deliver 1.3 million vehicles last year — roughly 10 deliveries for every Tesla employee. Jeep-and-Chrysler-owner Stellantis delivered 22 cars per employee, Ford managed 24.5, and GM delivered nearly 6 million vehicles with a workforce of ~167,000, or 35 deliveries per employee.

Good 4 her

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album Guts, released last Friday, continues to garner rave reviews from fans and critics, with the record reportedly set to debut at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with over 285,000 sales in its first week.

The 20-year-old singer, whose infectious hit singles include “good 4 u” and “vampire”, may not be familiar to everyone, but her 2 albums have catapulted her into direct comparison with some of the biggest names in modern music.

Streaming royalty

Rodrigo is currently notching 45 million streams on Spotify every day, only behind Drake and Taylor Swift who are getting 50 million and 85 million plays a day, respectively. Interestingly, Rodrigo’s had to deny any animosity toward Swift — the subject of our Sunday Deep Dive back in July — after fans interpreted some Guts lyrics as not-so-subtle digs at her contemporary, following a legal copyright entanglement between the pair.

While she’s the third most-streamed artist in the world on daily counts, over 25 million ahead of established acts like Sheeran and Bieber, Rodrigo is still behind on lifetime streaming figures — understandable, though, given that she was born in 2003.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Birkenstock is the latest firm looking to test the IPO waters, as the iconic sandal maker eyes a deal that could value the company at more than $8 billion.

Family footsteps

Birkenstock can trace its first steps back to 1774 when Johann Adam Birkenstock, a “subject and cobbler”, plied his trade in a small German village. However, it was his grandson Konrad, who in introduced the first footbed with contoured arch support in 1902, and it was his son, Karl, who's credited with creating the first Birkenstock sandal. The long tradition of family ownership came to an end in 2021 when L Catterton, a private equity firm backed by luxury giant LVMH, acquired a majority stake in the shoe company for €4 billion ($4.3 billion).

The company got a foothold in the US market thanks to German dressmaker, Margot Fraser. Returning to California after a trip to Germany — with a few pairs of Birkenstocks packed into her suitcase — Fraser began distributing Birks in the US. But, despite their comfort, she struggled to convince retailers to stock them, before eventually finding an unexpected home for the sandals in health stores, where they became associated with the hippie movement. Today, the US accounts for more than half of Birkenstock's sales.

Birkenstock stock

Birkenstock's more recent transformation, from humble sandal to fashion icon, has been marked by collaborations with designers such as Christian Dior, Manolo Blahnik, Stüssy, and Valentino Garavani, with its moment in the spotlight elevated by a cameo in this summer's blockbuster, Barbie. The results speak for themselves, with sales more than quadrupling since 2014.

More Data

• The winner of last November’s record-breaking $2 billion Powerball has been building out his property empire since, recently adding a $47m mansion to previous $25.5m and $4m purchases.

12s off shelves: France has banned iPhone 12 sales over fears about the radiation emitted by the Apple devices.

• A British endurance athlete just completed a 315-mile swim of the Hudson River.


• Case closed: Americans aren’t keen on the idea of open marriages, with 50% saying they’re “unacceptable”.

• A visual exploration of America’s oldest and youngest states.

Off the charts : We've redacted two major fast food chains, which are they? Hint: The top left is trying to make a return to the UK market, while the other (bottom right) is launching a new "half-size" meal in Pakistan to tackle inflation. [Answer below].

Answer here.

We're a fully bootstrapped, independent media company. If you enjoyed this data-driven newsletter, sharing it with your friends helps us out a lot.
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Recent newsletters

Birthday royale: Hit videogame Fortnite is celebrating a 6th anniversary
The chips are down: MGM's casino business is under attack
How much does this pay? Salary transparency is coming to a job site near you