Aug 17, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 555 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is already giving up on in-person classes, just a week into the school year.

  • "This decision comes after the University's COVID-19 positivity rate rose from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent last week. As of Monday, the University has 177 students in isolation and 349 students in quarantine both on and off campus." (Daily Tar Heel)
1 big thing: How sales pitches are changing

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

One side effect of America's coronavirus transformation: Learning and working from home bailed out some parts of retail despite the brutal recession, reports Axios' Jennifer Kingson.

  • July was the third straight month that retail sales have risen, and as a month it was better than February, the last full period before the pandemic hit home.

The big picture: Marketers are keen to convince parents to turn college-bound teens' bedrooms into dorm rooms, kitchens into faux cafeterias, and backyards into recess playgrounds — by buying new stuff from retailers eager to keep the fall shopping season from being a bust.

Between the lines: While some retailers are still highlighting their backpacks and lunch boxes, forward-thinking competitors are hawking stylish masks, homeschooling supplies, and products to help turn your home into a school — clever taglines included.

  • Target: "Find everything you need for wherever you college."
  • Bed Bath & Beyond has published a guide on "How to design your own 'dorm room' at home." (Suggestions include "create a cohesive look," "express yourself" and check out these desk chairs, lamps and comforters for sale!)
  • Per the NYT: "Kohl’s back-to-school offerings are listed online with the tagline, 'Heading back or logging in, the new year starts here.'"

The bottom line: August retail sales are likely to drop, despite the best efforts of retailers' marketing departments.

  • Enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 a week ended July 31, leaving many Americans with less disposable income. And the extra $300 a week that President Trump aims to deliver will likely take some time to arrive.
2. First look at DNC video
Screenshot from Democratic National Convention video

Axios PM brings you a first clip from "Rise Up," a video that'll be shown during tonight's 9 p.m. ET opening session of the mostly virtual Democratic National Convention.

  • As Bruce Springsteen sings "The Rising," we see a vacant Times Square subway station and empty MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, a big memorial mural to George Floyd, kids in cages, and President Trump chucking paper towels during his visit to Puerto Rico.
  • Then we watch firefighters and other essential workers, plus kids and workaday Americans — many in masks, one wrapped in a flag. Plus a shot of the Black Lives Matter street sign in D.C.

Tonight's convention theme is "We the People," and the video is meant to juxtapose images from President Trump's America vs. people rising above hate and division.

3. Catch up quick
  1. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to a request from top Democrats to testify at an "urgent" hearing before the House Oversight Committee next week about changes to the U.S. Postal Service. Go deeper.
  2. 🎧 Rep. Carolyn Maloney on fixing the U.S. Postal Service. Listen.
  3. The Republicans speaking tonight at the DNC: New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, former New York Rep. Susan Molinari and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Go deeper.
  4. The Cook Political Report moved its forecast of South Carolina's Senate race, which features Lindsey Graham (R) seeking re-election, from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican." Go deeper.
  5. Sanofi agreed to buy Principia Biopharma, a developer of drugs for multiple sclerosis and pemphigus, for around $3.7 billion in cash. Go deeper.
  6. The Interior Department finalized plans to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Go deeper
4. 1 📺 thing

Courtesy Amazon Studios

Stacey Abrams examines the topic of voter suppression and its impact on America's political system in Amazon Studios' new documentary, "All In: The Fight for Democracy," which hits theaters on Sept. 9 and will become available on Prime Video on Sept. 18.

  • Amazon Studios, alongside Abrams' voter access program Fair Fight and a host of other organizations, is launching #ALLINFORVOTING — a nonpartisan campaign designed to educate and register first-time voters and mobilize communities to vote.

Watch the trailer.

Mike Allen