Category Archives: Digital Lifestyle

Keys to July Retail Sales and Walmart Earnings Results

Keys to July Retail Sales and Walmart Earnings Results


Plus the Biggest Threat to the German Auto Industry

On this episode of the Thematic Signals podcast, we’re digging into the July Retail Sales and quarterly earnings results from Walmart as both confirm the hard-blowing tailwinds associated with our Digital Lifestyle, Middle-Class Squeeze, Aging of the Population and Cleaner Living Investing themes.





We also breakdown a recent article in The Wall Street Journalthat discusses how one aspect of our Cleaner Living investing theme — electric vehicles — could threaten the German economy. It’s the same structural shift that should have folks more than a little concerned about Tesla, both its business as well as its shares. All that and much more on this episode of the podcast. 

Have a topic or a conversation you think we should tackle on the podcast, email me at cversace@tematicaresearch.com

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Thematic Signals Podcast on iTunes!

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Ep. 9: How the Tapestry of Earnings is Coming Together

Ep. 9: How the Tapestry of Earnings is Coming Together

A look at the thematic outlook we can piece together from the flow of earnings reports we’ve received thus far.

On this episode of the Thematic Signals podcast, we find ourselves in the thick of earnings season and Tematica’s Chris Versace not only provides an overview for how all of these reports are coming together to form a larger picture, he shares a thematic look at what’s moving several stocks, including Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), International Airlines Group (ICAGY), IBM (IBM), Netflix (NFLX), Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) and the impact of spending on cybersecurity. In thematic speak, it’s the Digital Lifestyle, Digital Infrastructure, Disruptive Innovators, and the Safety & Security themes, with an added dash of privacy. Of particular note, Chris is really excited about one of the latest signals for Tematica’s Cleaner Living investing theme as Nestle SA has found a way to dramatically reduce the sugar content of its KitKat bar. Why? Because it and other food and beverage companies are under pressure from consumers and governments alike to make healthier products amid rising obesity and diabetes rates. If Nestle keeps this up maybe one day it could land in the Tematica Research Cleaner Living Index.

Have a topic or a conversation you think we should tackle on the podcast, email me at cversace@tematicaresearch.com

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Thematic Signals Podcast on iTunes!

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“Follow the Money” is always a good Thematic Investing Strategy

“Follow the Money” is always a good Thematic Investing Strategy

In the 1976 motion picture, All the President’s Men, the catchphrase “Follow the Money” was coined. It was the advice given by the Deep Throat character as reporters Woodward and Bernstein looked to uncover the scandal that came out of the Watergate break-in. When it comes to thematic investing, the same advice should be heeded.

Very recently an interesting stat came across my desk in an article on MarketingLand.com that sheds light directly on our Safety & Security investment theme. The article covers a survey of over 4,000 adults in the U.S. and the United Kingdom with regards to their sharing behavior online:

Asked whether Cambridge Analytica and other data and privacy scandals had impacted their online behavior, 78% of respondents said yes. Among that group, 74% said they are sharing less information online. For those whose behavior has not changed, the survey found that “they were already highly protective of their information, or that they had accepted a lack of privacy when engaging online.”

Source: Most consumers believe online privacy is impossible, survey finds – Marketing Land

Further into the article, an even more concerning stat reveals that consumers have no hope of achieving a level of privacy anymore:

Compared with the 2018 survey, consumers in the U.S. and U.K. now overwhelmingly believe [online privacy is not achievable]. The “online privacy is possible” respondents have declined from 61% in 2018 to 32% in 2019.

Impact of the Change in Online Behavior

One would think that with all of the cyber scams, data hacks and “fake news” pervading social media, and even the internet as a whole, we would see most of the internet darlings taking it on the chin.

Nope.

Such negative effects from consumers’ evaporation in confidence of online privacy are not readily apparent — at least in the near term — when we look at the likes of social media giants Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR). By all accounts, Facebook knocked it out of the park in its latest earnings report, which was released back in April 2019 and summarized the company’s first quarter of 2019. Mark Zuckerberg’s empire produced revenue for the quarter that soared 26% and net income per share that came in at $1.89 versus expectations of $1.62.  Twitter (TWTR) too killed it in the first quarter with $787 million in revenue and first-quarter earnings per share of 37 cents, compared with analyst estimates of $776.1 million and 15 cents per share.

The longer-term impact, however, of consumers sharing less and less, and lacking trust in online sites with their data is that the level of user engagement begins to wain.

Why log into Facebook five . . . six . . . ok 24 times per day, if none of your friends are sharing anything worth looking at?

That “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) quickly goes away when all you are missing out on is your friend’s latest cat photos or the toddler video you’ve seen 17 times. If the content isn’t fresh and refreshed, at some point, you and your  attention span will move to where it is, which will be something to watch for Netflix (NFLX) as Apple (AAPL), Disney (DIS), AT&T (T) push into the video streaming market tapping our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

So we’ll be on the look out for any confirming data points on this when Facebook (FB) announces its Q2 earnings on July 24, 2019 and Twitter’s on July 26, 2019.

Regulation and Fines Also Keeping CEO’s Up at Night

Losing the engagement of a customer base for privacy concerns can be terrible, but actual missteps in the handling of customer data and privacy can come along with some hefty costs as well.

We already have the European Union’s GDPR regulation, which British Airways (BA) has run afoul of and hit with a $230 million fine and Marriott (MAR) as well with a $123 million fine. Additionally, the State of California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is to take effect in January of 2020 and we also have rumblings of Congress taking steps to impose GDPR-like regulations on a federal level.

So is Silicon Valley and the rest of Corporate America and beyond  concerned about this?

While we can’t peak into the sleeping patterns of CEO’s and CIO’s of these  companies, these kinds of concerns are being revealed when we . . . you guessed it . . . follow the money.

Yesterday, OneTrust, a privately held company focused providing tools and services to help companies comply with GDPR and assess their risk levels announced a $200 million Series A investment, which equals a not-to0-shabby $1.3 billion valuation for a company that is just three years old.

The OneTrust series A round came on the heels of a $70 million D round closed by San Francisco-based TrustArc. That latest round brings the total amount raised by TrustArc to over $100 million.  In an article on VentureBeat.com covering the TrustArc news, the size of the privacy and compliance market as described as:

TrustArc competes to an extent with StandardFusion, LogicGate, Iubenda, and Netwrix Auditor, all of which are vying for a slice of enterprise governance, risk, and compliance market that’s estimated to be worth $64.62 billion by 2025. Bregal Sagemont partner Daniel Kim isn’t terribly concerned about rivals, though — he points out that TrustArc has engaged with over 10,000 customers to date across its client base of more than 1,000 clients.

Getting back to following the money, these are developments we monitor as we develop our themes where we look to identify those companies riding the tailwinds of a theme as reflected in operating profit or sales. In the case of privacy and compliance, it’s a key component of our Safety & Security investment theme and the planned release of a new index to go along with our Cleaner Living Index that was launched in June of 2019.

Ep 8. Will Fed Chairman Powell reset dovish interest rate expectations this week?

Ep 8. Will Fed Chairman Powell reset dovish interest rate expectations this week?


On this episode of the Thematic Signals podcast, Tematica’s Chris Versace gets investors and corporate leaders ready for what Fed Chairman Powell may do at this week’s semi-annual testimony in front of the House Financial Services Committee.




In June Powell signaled a more dovish tone with monetary policy citing the slowing global economy, trade related uncertainty and the lack of inflation. After Independence Day 2019, however, several pieces of new data may give Powell and the Fed some room to wait. What the data was and what it could mean, we discuss on the podcast. We’re also sharing several signals for our Digital Lifestyle, Cleaner Living, Living the Life and Safety & Security investing themes. 

Have a topic or a conversation you think we should tackle on the podcast, email me at cversace@tematicaresearch.com

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Thematic Signals Podcast on iTunes!

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Next-day and same-day delivery will take a knife to brick & mortar retail

Next-day and same-day delivery will take a knife to brick & mortar retail

“Retailers closed a record 102 million square feet of store space in 2017, then smashed that record in 2018 by closing another 155 million square feet, according to estimates by the commercial real-estate firm CoStar Group.”

And that’s before Amazon unveiled the shift in its Prime service to one-day from two-day shipping. In short order, we’ve seen both Walmart and Target join the one-day shipping ranks. In our view this will only add gas to the fire that is brick & mortar retail closures and it sets the stage for a painful second half of 2019. We’ll look for confirmation in the volume of truck and van deliveries that are likely to ensue as next-day and even same-day delivery gets those potential digital shoppers off the fence and joint in this  aspect of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme.

Target is among the latest merchants to boost its same-day delivery offerings. The retail chain is making same-day delivery though Shipt available to all of its shoppers. The retailer’s June 13 announcement shows Target is moving to compete with Amazon and Walmart in an ongoing bid to provide customers with the quickest delivery service.

Target said online customers in 47 states can now get items delivered on the same day for a flat fee of $9.99 per order. Target acquired Shipt in 2017 for $550 million. Previously, Target customers could get same-day delivery by being a Shipt member, for $99 a year. That’s still an option, but now customers can also get one-day delivery for just one order.

Not to be undone, Walmart recently said it is expanding its next-day delivery service before the start of the back-to-school shopping season. The retailer is opening up the service to a dozen new states, including in parts of Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Wisconsin. It originally launched in May for customers in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Southern California, and Walmart previously revealed it wants to reach about three-quarters of the U.S. by the end of the year.

Walmart’s next-day delivery is available for customers who spend $35 or more. Orders are shipped in one box to address complaints from customers about receiving multiple boxes.

Source: Same-Day Delivery Wars Heat Up | PYMNTS.com

Europe gets in the game with 5G deployments

Europe gets in the game with 5G deployments

To date the majority of conversation around 5G mobile network deployments has been in the U.S., as once again Verizon and AT&T battle over whose network will be the best. In the past, the eurozone has blazed the next generation of mobile technology due in part to both Ericsson and Nokia being housed there.

But that is about to change as several mobile operators in the eurozone fire their own 5G cannons with initial network deployments and data plans. While the 5G networks will be a work in progress for some time, the data plans will be something to watch as the carriers balance winning 5G subscribers vs. recouping the spectrum acquisition as well as network buildout costs.

Given the growing pervasiveness of unlimited data plans, we’ll be looking to see how network operators price their 5G offerings, and which solutions stick. As this aspect of our Digital Infrastructure investing theme gets built out, our suspicion is the near unquenchable thirst for data consumption that is part of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme will go swallow up 5G data speeds without missing a beat.

Europe may have lagged behind the United States and South Korea in early 5G network launches due to regulatory hurdles, but top carriers are now making up for lost time with aggressive moves across the continent. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom unexpectedly commenced commercial 5G service in two cities today, while rival Vodafone announced unlimited 4G/5G service plans for the United Kingdom, including 5G roaming across the U.K., Germany, Italy, and Spain.

In Deutsche Telekom’s case, the carrier has opted to open 5G test networks in Berlin and Bonn to consumers today, with a promise to add four more cities in 2019, and cover 20 by the end of 2020.

The move comes only weeks after the carrier spent $2.45 billion in a German 5G spectrum auction and a year after it first began to publicly complain about the high costs of 5G deployment — the reason its unlimited 5G plan will cost €85 ($96) per month with voice service, or €75 ($85) monthly for hotspot-only data service. Initial service is being focused on dense metropolitan areas, but the carrier plans to “eliminate white spots in rural areas” and build 5G networks for campuses, amongst other expansions of its coverage.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has built upon its earlier promise to launch 5G on July 3, becoming the first U.K. operator to promise unlimited 4G and 5G data plans. For the first week of service, Vodafone is offering 5G along with data-capped plans, but starting July 10 the carrier will offer three unlimited data plans at prices from £23 to £30, differentiated by speed. The lowest-end plan, Vodafone Unlimited Lite, will be capped at a meager 2Mbps, while a £26 Unlimited plan will offer 10Mbps speeds, and the high-end Unlimited Max plan will hit “speeds as fast as the device and the network will allow,” peaking at 100 times faster than its current LTE network.

“[W]ith 5G, the demand for data is only set to increase,” explained Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery. “That is why we want to remove the limits on data, so that customers can unlock the full potential of 5G and we can really propel the U.K. into the digital age. By offering unlimited plans to our consumer and business customers, we will revolutionize the market.”

Source: Deutsche Telekom debuts 5G in Germany as Vodafone UK offers unlimited plans

Ep 7. With the G20 in the Rearview Mirror, What’s Next

Ep 7. With the G20 in the Rearview Mirror, What’s Next



On this episode of the Thematic Signals podcast, Tematica’s Chris Versace digs into why investors should be watching in the month of July. Between the June quarter earnings season, the Fed and the latest economic data, there is no shortage of things investors need to watch. In Chris’s view that’s especially true given the potential for the Fed to NOT cut interest rates at its July monetary policy meeting, and for earnings guidance to be softer than Wall Street is expecting. We’ve also got several thematic signals, including ones for our Digital Lifestyle, Aging of the Population and the new Cleaner Living Index. If you listen carefully, Chris mentions not only one of his favorite companies for the second half of the year, but also how the Cleaner Living signal ties into the Tematica Research Cleaner Living Index. 

Have a topic or a conversation you think we should tackle on the podcast, email me at cversace@tematicaresearch.com

And don’t forget to subscribe to the Thematic Signals Podcast on iTunes!

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Does Katzenberg’s Quibi and its $100M in ad sales signal a streaming bubble?

Does Katzenberg’s Quibi and its $100M in ad sales signal a streaming bubble?

As we get ready to enter the second half of 2019, we will see several streaming video services launching, including the high profile ones from Disney and Apple, with more to follow in the coming quarters. No surprise as consumers flock to that aspect of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme, preferring to watch what they want, when they want on the device they want.

The question we are thinking through is how long until we see the once quality content filled streaming services become the new cable – filled with subpar programming and in some cases ads?

It seems every week there is a new streaming video service with recent ones including the ability to watch Broadway shows and short-form programming. An example of the latter is Quibi by Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the former Disney Hollywood wonders, and in a world of other streaming services as well as short-form videos from Snap, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the Tematica jury is out on its success.

What’s interesting in the price point at $7.99 for an ad-free subscription, which is less than the $6.99 starting price for Disney+. That same $6.99 starting price was one of the factors that led Comcast to rethink its own streaming service in favor of selling its stake in Hulu to Disney.

The bottom line is we’ve seen these rushes in the past, and invariably there is a shakeout that will washout a number of entrants looking to capitalize on the trend.

Quibi, the short-form video platform founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, hasn’t even launched, but has already booked $100 million in advertising sales, according to a report from The WSJ this morning. The company, which aims to cater to younger viewers with premium content chopped up into “quick bites,” says it has already booked advertisers, including Protector & Gamble, Pepsi Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev, Walmart, Progressive and Google.

It still has around $50 million in unsold ad inventory ahead of launch.

It’s hard to imagine how a service like Quibi will compete in a market dominated by paid streamers like Netflix and free services like YouTube — both preferred by a younger demographic. But Quibi has been raising massive amounts of money to take them on. In May, it was reported that Quibi was going after another billion in funding, on top of the billion it had already raised.

Beyond the industry’s big bet on Katzenberg himself, Quibi has booked big-name talent, including Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro, and is filming a show about Snapchat’s founding, which may draw in millennial viewers.

But it sounds like Quibi may also be relying on gimmicks — like Spielberg’s horror series that you can only watch at night (when it’s dark outside). Not to mention the very idea that Quibi thinks it’s invented a new kind of media that falls between today’s short-form and traditional TV-length or movie-length content found elsewhere.

On Quibi, shows are meant to be watched on the go, through segments that are around 7 to 10 minutes long. Some of the content will be bigger, more premium productions, while others will be more akin to what you’d find on cable TV or lower-cost daily news programming.

The service will launch April 6, 2020 with two tiers. A $4.99 per month plan includes a pre-roll ad before each video segment. The ad is 10 seconds if the video is less than 5 minutes, and it’s 15 seconds for any videos between 5 and 10 minutes. Some ads themselves will tell “brand stories” throughout the program breaks.

A $7.99 per month tier offers an ad-free experience.

Source: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming service Quibi books $100M in ad sales ahead of launch | TechCrunch

Shopify expands footprint into fulfillment services

Shopify expands footprint into fulfillment services

As consumers continue to shift to digital shopping, a key stool in our Digital Lifestyle investing theme, we are not only seeing more companies embrace the direct to consumer (D2C) business model, but we are also seeing more digital shopping solutions for those companies come to market. Internet shopping platform company Shopify is doing just that as it expands its reach into our Digital Infrastructure investing theme by moving into distribution and fulfillment services. Interesting indeed, but what caught our eye is how they are using machine learning, an aspect of our Disruptive Innovators theme, to do so.

E-commerce technology company Shopify Inc. is extending into physical distribution, offering customers access to a network of dedicated U.S. fulfillment centers to store and ship consumer goods for online orders.

The aim is to speed up delivery for retailers racing to keep up with Amazon.com Inc. while keeping a lid on transport costs by placing inventory across a distributed network within easy reach of major population centers.

Ottawa-based Shopify provides internet shopping platforms and other services that help companies sell items online. It has also branched into payment technology and hardware for use at retail stores and pop-up locations as more online businesses open bricks-and-mortar locations. Its customers include Unilever PLC, Kylie Cosmetics and footwear maker Allbirds Inc.

Shopify said Wednesday that its new service uses machine learning to forecast demand, allocate inventory and route orders to the closest fulfillment centers. The company is working with logistics providers and software companies in Nevada, California, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Our aim is to make fast and inexpensive shipping the new standard on the internet,” said Shopify Chief Product Officer Craig Miller.

Shopify’s move into warehousing services puts it in competition with companies such as Belgian Post Group-owned Radial, which provides technology and e-commerce services for retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. at 21 fulfillment centers.

The services are part of a growing array of operations that startups and traditional shipping companies have launched to compete with Amazon’s expanding distribution system, including a Fulfillment by Amazon business that ties its online marketplace for third-party sellers to its burgeoning network of distribution centers and transportation options.

Source: Online Retail Provider Shopify Adds Fulfillment Service – WSJ