Axios Closer

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September 23, 2021

Today's newsletter is 603 words, a 2-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 1%.

  • Biggest gainer? Devon Energy (+8%). Other oil and gas producers rose too.
  • Biggest decliner? Entergy (-3%). It says costs to repair electrical facilities damaged by Hurricane Ida will top $2 billion.

1 big thing: QVC meets Gen Z tech

Illustration of a person carrying shopping bags printed with play and pause buttons.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Live video shopping à la QVC is on fire thanks to social technologies popularized by Gen Z, Axios’ Hope King writes.

Why it matters: Consumer media and shopping habits moving online have primed retail and digital video to combine more seamlessly.

  • Dedicated startups like Ntwrk — a livestream shopping platform for limited-edition products like streetwear and NFTs — are in a race with the likes of Amazon, YouTube and Facebook to capture this growing sector of retail.
  • Albertsons, which also owns Acme and Safeway, is set to become the first U.S. grocer to use Firework's shoppable video platforms, the companies announced Wednesday.

How it works: Not unlike television predecessors QVC and HSN, a typical shoppable livestream involves a host who presents and describes products while viewers can ask questions and add items to their carts using embedded links or even through comments.

  • One top livestream seller in China brings in as many as 37 million live viewers and hawks everything from instant noodles, homes and cars to a $5.6 million rocket launch, according to Bloomberg.
  • Owners of a Mississippi boutique say they’ve sold $1,000 worth of merchandise a minute through one of their live sales shows. 

The bottom line: “Just as YouTube redefined TV production, shopatainment will spawn a new wave of video-first sellers, fine-tuned to online audiences,” says Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz.

Read the full story.

2. Charted: Wealth soars

Data: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

American households' net worth hit another record high, buoyed by the biggest-ever gain in home values.

  • Wealth increased by $5.8 trillion last quarter, according to new Fed data. Skyrocketing stock values accounted for the bulk of those gains ($3.5 trillion).
  • Real estate appreciation was responsible for $1.2 trillion — a record quarterly jump.

But, but, but: The gains aren't felt all around. A large swath of Americans don't own stocks, and for those who don't own homes, rising values can sideline would-be buyers.

3. What's happening

🏭 Business activity last month expanded at the slowest pace in a year, the latest sign shortages are biting. (Reuters)

💼 Labor shortage watch: Southwest Airlines will slash flights next year if it can't meet hiring goals. Target cut seasonal hiring for the holidays — it will lean more on existing staff. (CNBC, AP)

4. Boy Scouts bankruptcy fallout

Boy Scouts uniforms

Photo: Stormi Greener/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Boy Scouts of America's bankruptcy case could leave thousands of religious groups open to lawsuits, AP reports.

Catch up quick: The Boy Scouts struck an $850 million settlement in July, which would ultimately bar further sexual abuse lawsuits against it and its local councils, Axios' Yacob Reyes writes.

  • But the settlement did not extend protections to the more than 40,000 organizations with ties to the Boy Scouts, including the United Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church.

What they're saying: "Scouting can only be delivered with help of their chartered organizations," Everett Cygal, a lawyer for Catholic churches monitoring the case, told AP.

Go deeper.

5. Pandemic trend: Sunday dining surge

A Darden-owned Capital Grille restaurant in Denver, Colo. Photo: Chet Strange/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More people are dining out to end their weekend — at least at some of the eateries owned by restaurant giant Darden (including Seasons 52 and The Capital Grille).

CEO Gene Lee told analysts today that before the pandemic, Sunday was "kind of a throwaway day" at these restaurants.

  • “Sunday is a real legitimate day now. ... Operationally, it's taken some adjustment for us to get used to," Lee said.

The big picture: The company — which also owns Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse — says sales are on track to exceed pre-COVID-19 levels, though it's pinched by staffing constraints and inflation.

6. What they’re saying

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrives to testify at Theranos trial

Jim Mattis leaving federal court in San Jose, Calif., yesterday. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"There became a point where I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore."
— Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, one of the troubled blood-testing startup's high-profile board members, testifies at Elizabeth Holmes' criminal trial. Go deeper.