March 15, 2024

Today's Topics

Hello and have a good St. Patrick’s Day if you’re celebrating on Sunday! The first known parade paying tribute to the patron saint of Ireland was reportedly held in 1601 in what would eventually become St. Augustine, Florida. Today we’re exploring:

  • Tik, Tik, boom: New bill leaves TikTok’s future in the balance.
  • Pruning: Dollar Tree is cutting 1,000 branches.
  • Changing states: America's shifting population.
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Tok of the town

As you might have heard from news sites, broadcasters, or even TikTok’s CEO himself while scrolling through the app, the House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday requiring Chinese owner ByteDance to sell the platform or see TikTok face a total ban in the US.

While the legislation still faces plenty more hurdles before it becomes law, that hasn’t stopped global discourse regarding the future of the popular social media escalating, with an onslaught of phone calls overwhelming Capitol Hill offices and US investors poising themselves to buy the app should it be divested from its parent company.


Although concerns about privacy and national security are the main driving forces behind the bill, larger questions about the role TikTok plays in the lives of the estimated one-third of Americans who use the app are now being thrust into the spotlight.

It seems that many TikTok users have moved on from filming themselves dancing to music clips — in fact, only a little over half have ever posted a video — and are increasingly using it to stay informed: surveys conducted by Pew Research found that last year, 43% of TikTok’s users regularly turned to the app to get their news, up 21% from 2020, as more traditional information sources like Facebook fell out of favor.

The buck stops here…

Dollar Tree has announced plans to close 1,000 stores over the next 12 months, after the company revealed a surprise Q4 loss largely stemming from its move to slash the value of subsidiary Family Dollar, the rival it acquired almost 10 years ago.

The iconic chain store — where customers could once browse aisles brimming with sub-$1 bargains, but can now expect to pay up to $5 for some products — has become a “victim of the macro environment”, according to a statement from CEO Rick Dreiling on Wednesday. Even so, the company has also struggled with basic operations, receiving a ~$41m fine over a rodent-infested warehouse just 3 weeks ago.

Store of value

The lion’s share of closures will affect Family Dollar, which Dollar Tree picked up for ~$8.5bn in 2015, following an extended bidding war with Dollar General. Indeed, the parent company plans on closing 600 Family Dollar stores in the first half of this year, followed by a further 370 in the second half, taking the company's total store count below 16,000.

This would be the first time that the Tree’s total location tally has dropped in 3 decades, having added branches every single year since 1994, when they counted just 409 stores across the US and Canada. However, with slumping sales and most prices already forced up to the $1.25 mark ~2 years ago, Dollar Tree’s greenest years might be behind it.

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Movin’ out

Even as the Covid years recede further in the collective rearview mirror, it seems that many New Yorkers are still running back the pandemic play of ditching the city that never sleeps to set up life elsewhere. Last year, NYC lost a further 78,000 citizens, taking the net population decrease to over 546,000 since April 2020.

Data from the Census Bureau shows that the declines haven’t just been contained to the 5 boroughs either: New York posted the largest drop of any state over the last 3 years, down 2.7% since 2020 to 19.6 million. That slide in citizenship makes it the biggest loser over the period by some distance, with second-place Illinois losing just 1.9% of its population and Louisiana & California shedding 1.7% and 1.4%, respectively.

Changes of state

The story playing out across the US more broadly, however, is much different. 60% of American counties posted annual population gains rather than losses in 2023, according to Census data published yesterday, up from 52% the year before.

That trend has seriously translated in states like Idaho, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas, where citizen headcounts have grown 4.3% to 6.2% since 2020, as fewer deaths and a return to pre-pandemic immigration levels saw the US population tick up by 1.6 millionlast year.

More Data

Costco’s beloved $1.50 hot dog & soda deal is “probably safe for a while”, per outgoing CFO Richard Galanti, who’s leaving the retailer today after over 30 years in the role.

• Voting is now underway in Russia’s presidential election, which is all but guaranteed to keep Vladimir Putin in power for another 6 years.

• After a 6-week trial, a UK court ruled that Australian computer scientist Craig Wright is not the enigmatic Bitcoin creator “Satoshi Nakamoto”.


• Take a stroll through Time Out’s coolest streets of 2024.

Data viz exploring the most common age gaps between married couples.

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