Feb 1, 2020

Axios Future

Welcome back to Future. This is my first edition coming to you from a new city! I moved to New York from D.C. yesterday. Send me your Brooklyn restaurant recs!

What are your thoughts on today's issue? Reply to this email or reach me at erica@axios.com.

This weekend edition is 1,200 words — about a 4-minute read. And, of course, we'll start with...

1 big thing: The future of moving

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Moving companies, a $25 billion business in the U.S., look like an upcoming target for disruption.

Why it matters: Technology has made dozens of tasks easier: We can use GPS for road trips instead of printing out directions, we can order our groceries online and get them delivered, and we can even meet our spouses on apps.

  • But moving still sucks.

The big picture: As we've reported, Americans are generally moving less. But young people — especially those living in cities — are bucking this trend.

  • "The share of 25- to 34-year-olds who have lived in their current home for less than two years rose from 33.8% in 1960 to 45.3% in 2017," per Zillow.
  • "Younger folks are moving a lot more often and longer distances," says Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha, a platform that compares moving company prices for customers. "We’re like city-hoppers."

What's happening: There are a slew of inefficiencies within the moving industry.

  • For example, there are more than 8,000 moving companies in the U.S. because most of them only serve small regions. "Moving forever has been really hard to expand in the country because managing the labor is so difficult," Carrigan says. So people looking to move across the country have to work with multiple firms.
  • On top of that, the types of moves companies are equipped to handle — large-scale operations that involve transporting entire houses' worth of furniture — are becoming outdated. Not only are young people moving more often, they're also doing smaller moves (with less stuff), says Carrigan. So they often don't need all the services that come with hiring a traditional moving company.
  • To that end, young people are using a patchwork of apps and traditional moving companies to orchestrate piecemeal moves. That could include hiring a TaskRabbit to help disassemble a bed, finding a buyer for the mattress on an app like LetGo or Facebook Marketplace, and renting a truck to transport the frame.

Some companies are picking up on the shifts.

  • Bellhops, a Tennessee company, offers a clean app and site to instantly book only what you need, whether that's a helper or a truck or an entire moving team. Their slogan is "Imagine if moving were fun," and while traditional movers have trouble scaling, Bellhops' platform is available in almost every major U.S. city.
  • Lugg, another startup, uses an app to get the truck of your choice and two "Luggers" to your door within 15 minutes.
  • BuddyTruk offers a similar service for big delivery jobs — like picking up a couch from the store — which usually come with skyrocketing costs and take the better part of a day.

The bottom line: "Uber-izing moving will continue to be a very interesting trend," Carrigan says. "It’s the standard tech story: using tech to cut out the cost, the middle man."

  • Yes, but: The Uber model also turns jobs into gigs. If it takes over the moving industry, scores of full-time movers may be pushed to bid for work.
Bonus: Moving pic du jour
Your Future correspondent with most of her earthy possessions. Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios

This week, I pulled off one of the most efficient moves of all time. I sold all of my furniture to the next tenant taking my apartment, and I'm getting all of my furniture from the person whose apartment I'm taking. All I had to do was rent a small U-Haul van for the rest of my things.

2. The great electric pickup production race

GMC Hummer's grille and the Tesla cybertruck. Photos courtesy of General Motors and Tesla

Automakers are competing to make the buzziest, strongest, fastest electric truck that would fare well in a dystopian future — albeit one with a reliable grid and eco-conscious drivers, Axios' Ben Geman writes.

Driving the news: This week, GM announced it is indeed reviving the gas-guzzling Hummer as a fully electric and powerful "super truck" with seriously gaudy specs.

  • The company has bought Super Bowl advertising and plans to unveil the vehicle, which will be built in Detroit, on May 20.
  • It has not yet released images, beyond the grille above, of the vehicle to be sold under its GMC brand in 2021.

Where it stands: The announcement comes just two months after Tesla unveiled its powerful Cybertruck that's explicitly designed to look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on this week's Q4 earnings call, said they wanted to build a "badass, futuristic, armored personnel carrier."

Why it matters: A number of automakers hope a chunk of the huge pickup market can be electrified — and that consumers are interested in muscle and design, not just the environment, and will pay a premium.

The offerings in the pipeline include...

  • GM says the electric Hummer will have 1,000 horsepower, go from 0-60 miles per hour in 3 seconds and have 11,500 lb-ft of torque.
  • Tesla says the high-end version of the Cybertruck, slated for production in 2022, goes from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and has a towing capacity north of 14,000 pounds. Production of other versions is slated to launch in 2021.
  • Ford is planning to launch an electric version of its hugely popular F-150 in the coming years. They've circulated a video of a prototype pulling rail cars weighing a combined 1 million pounds.
  • Rivian, the well-funded Michigan-based startup, will start selling its futuristic-looking R1T pickup late this year.

The bottom line: There's opportunity for automakers if electric pickups can catch on. Per the firm Edmunds, pickups were 14.4% of the consumer vehicle market last year, the highest level since 2005.

Go deeper with Ben's full story.

3. Amazon's blockbuster week

An Amazon Boeing 737 takes to the skies. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Amazon briefly re-entered the $1 trillion-valuation club on Friday after a better-than-expected earnings report that boosted its stock by nearly 10% at peak.

Why it matters: The e-commerce behemoth's Q4 earnings report — which included the revenue from its holiday sales — is one of the strongest recent examples of its formidability.

  • While department stores like Macy's, J.C. Penney and Kohl's faltered during the Christmas shopping season, Amazon did better than ever — posting its best sales day in its history this past Cyber Monday.
  • The company also added more Prime members, per WSJ.

The big picture: Amazon's secret sauce is its speedy, reliable delivery, which its shoppers love. Last year, the company decided to slash two-day free delivery under Prime to one day — and committed to spending big to make it happen.

  • "Wall Street has wondered whether Amazon's huge investments in one-day delivery and cloud services would depress its financial performance. This quarter, at least, gave investors a positive surprise," Axios' Scott Rosenberg and Sara Fischer write.
  • In fact, it's costing the company slightly less than projected, per Thursday's earnings call.

Worth noting: Amazon's stock jump "boosted [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos’ personal wealth by more than $10 billion, according to FactSet data" cited by WSJ.

4. Worthy of your time

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's new housing crisis (Felix Salmon — Axios)

The age of interstellar visitors (Michele Bannister — Quanta)

Infinite scroll: Life under Instagram (Dayna Tortorici — The Guardian)

The robots are coming. Prepare for trouble. (David Deming — NYT)

Outbreak spotlights China's social fragility (Tadanori Yoshida — Nikkei Asian Review)

5. 1 fun thing: The death of paper greeting cards

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Americans aren't really buying each other cards anymore.

The big picture: "U.S. sales of printed greeting cards, estimated at $4.5 billion in 2019, fell nearly 13% over the last five years, according to market research company IBISWorld," WSJ reports.

  • That trend is hitting Hallmark — and its nearly 2,000 U.S. stores — hard, per the Retail Brew newsletter.
  • The 110-year-old company is responding to the sales decline by pushing personalized cards on a redesigned app, opening smaller stores in places like hospitals and shaking up leadership, Retail Brew notes.

The bottom line: Young people are increasingly using social media or text messaging to reach their friends on holidays. Those 7-frame Instagram story birthday tributes may soon be the end of greeting cards.

Thanks for reading!