February 28, 2024

Today's Topics

Good morning! Tomorrow is a leap day, meaning we get an extra 24 hrs in February... and companies like Walmart potentially get another 1% sales uplift for the quarter, as they did 4 years ago. Today we're exploring:

  • Drained: As the EV market slows down, startups are taking it hard.
  • I Don't: Japanese marriage rates are plummeting.
  • Domino effect: The pizza maker keeps winning.
Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

The brakes have been slammed on the world of EVs — and once-red-hot startups are taking the shift the hardest, with shares in companies like Rivian and Lucid down more than 90% from their previous peaks.

Lost spark

Mercedes-Benz announced a 5-year delay in its electrification goals last week, Ford saw a double-digit drop in EV sales for January, Toyota is keeping its focus on its hybrid lineup, and, as of yesterday, Apple is giving up entirely on its not-so-secret car project.

Although EV sales are still growing, up 31% last year, the pace of change appears to have slowed as we potentially enter what’s known as “the chasm” in the adoption curve of any new technology — when a product struggles to cross over from the early adopters to the mainstream.

The EV slowdown isn’t disastrous for legacy automakers, but if you’re a cash-guzzling EV startup that needs new capital and investors to reach scale, it’s a major roadblock. Rivian has announced no plans for production growth this year and is reducing its workforce by 10%; Lucid has cut prices for its luxury EVs 3 times in 7 months and is now expecting to build only 9,000 cars this year; while Volvo has withdrawn its financing of Polestar, leaving Chinese parent company Geely to support the struggling EV maker.

With some combination of range anxiety, cost (the average EV will still set you back over $55k despite price cuts), and ongoing concerns over the state of charging infrastructure all playing on consumers' minds, the EV industry looks set for a slower year.

The Big 3

At the start of last year, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said it was “now or never” to undo the country’s declining birth rate — but national data out yesterday revealed that births dropped again to a record low 758,631 in 2023, suggesting the nation is getting further away from reversing the worrying trend.

The 5.1% year-over-year decline marks the 8th consecutive birth rate drop, with fears of depopulation and a shrinking workforce rising as deaths in the nation ticked up to 1.59 million in yet another concerning record for the country. And the bad news from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare sadly doesn’t end there either: marriages also plummeted to 490k, the first time that figure has slipped below 500k since 1933.

Marriage problems

While Japan’s ever-declining birth rate and its implications for the recently-3rd-now-4th largest economy in the world have caught the attention of media outlets and major tech moguls for years now, falling marriages have perhaps slipped more under the radar when the annual ministry data is released. However, the dropping number of couples tying the knot is intrinsically linked to birth rate concerns and will likely be a problem for many years to come, as record numbers of Japanese 18-34 year-olds say they have no intentions of marrying.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Domino’s Pizza Inc. reported some pretty sauced up results on Monday, as the fruits of its collaboration with Uber Eats, revamped loyalty program, and marketing initiatives drove global sales up more than 5% at its 20,000+ global locations. The results bucked the wider trend of weaker sales at fast food chains, sending DPZ shares up 8% on the news.

Domino effect

The largest pizza company in the world has reinvented itself again and again since its founding in 1960s Michigan, from its infamous 30-minutes-or-less guarantee in the 90s, to the hotly debated "pizza tracker". So, you wouldn’t think there were many new ways to advertise pizza to the American public, but Domino’s found one with its latest initiative: the “emergency pizza” promotion, which gave customers a free pizza… as long as you were signed up to the company’s all-important loyalty program.

The pie maker also completed its nationwide roll-out of its partnership with Uber Eats, a step that execs had been reluctant to take — presumably because they felt they had a large enough footprint with nearly 7,000 stores in the US alone and more than 20,000 globally, as well as wanting to control the delivery experience. Of course, the allure of serving a few extra slices is hard to resist, with Domino’s reportedly grabbing 19% market share among pizza chains on the platform.


For the last decade, Domino’s has been adding to its pizza store base at a ferocious pace, pulling clear of Pizza Hut in 2021. But, any notion of “peak pizza” would be laughed out of Domino’s expansion meetings, with plans to add ~6,000 stores by 2028… and one eye on 50,000 stores in the long-term.

Elsewhere in fast food land: Wendy’s is thinking about dynamic pricing... but consumers don't love the idea.

More Data

• Reddit riteoff: r/WallStreetBets are already talking about shorting Reddit stock ahead of its March IPO, after the forum was name-checked 5x in the company’s S-1 filing last week.

• Despite last summer's Barbie-mania, 2023 marked a historic low for women in film: of the year's 100 top-grossing movies, only 30 featured females in lead and co-lead roles, down from 44 the year before.

Macy's is shutting another 150 stores over the next 3 years.

• World of Pure Fabrication: Police were called to a Fyre-Festival-like "Willy Wonka Experience" event in Glasgow, as families demand refunds for tickets costing up to £35 (~$44).

• Lost in music: A 17-second clip of an unidentified 80s hit is still baffling the internet 3 years — and a 27,000-person strong subreddit — later.


Leaps and bounds: Why leap years occur only once every 4 years.

• The 25 US cities with the best quality of life.

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up free below.

Recent newsletters

Analogs and algorithms: The changing shape of the recorded music industry
Amazon’s empire: How the tech giant makes its money
Powering down: Electric vehicle sales lose momentum
We and our partners use cookies and similar technologies (“Cookies”) on our website and in our newsletters for performance, analytical or advertising purposes to ensure you have the best experience on our site and/or interaction with us. To find out more about the use of Cookies, see our Cookie Notice. Please click OK if you consent to our use of Cookies or click Manage my Preferences to manage your Cookie preferences.