Numlock News: April 26, 2023 • IKEA, Moondust, Manga
By Walt Hickey
A Freight Farm is a self-contained farm concept where local produce is grown in 40-foot containers with a self-contained growing system. It’s ideal for remote areas that face high shipping costs for other fresh vegetables and herbs, and Freight Farms has placed over 500 such containers throughout the U.S. and abroad. One such greenery costs $149,000 plus shipping, can cost about $500 a month in electricity, but can be reliably expected to produce between 2 and 6 tons of produce annually. That might push a farmer to err on the side of stuff like basil and other herbs which can go for an order of magnitude more than lettuce, but they’ve often been hits for people who can get their supply into a local restaurant scene.
Last year there were 16.9 million units of manga sold in the United States, accounting for $246 million in sales and some 54 percent of total graphic novel sales. While that 6.8 percent year-over-year growth would be remarkable, it is down from the 68.5 percent growth seen in 2021, and potentially a sign that the expansion in the market isn’t going to grow at a double digit clip forever. Nevertheless, that’s up from $49.9 million in 2019. The United States has become a voracious importer of manga titles; it’s not even the largest importer in the world, a title that goes to France, which has the largest market for manga outside of Japan. The French moved 47 million units in 2022, with sales hitting €381 million ($417 million), quadruple the sales of a decade ago. One out of every seven books sold in France is manga.
K-pop executives are trying to figure out why the sales of albums are huge in the United States, but singles rarely become hits at the rate one would otherwise expect. Last year, K-pop groups’ albums hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album ranking in four different weeks, thanks to Stray Kids, BTS and BLACKPINK. Still, the biggest non-BTS song — “Pink Venom” by BLACKPINK — topped out at No. 22 last year. One reason is that while the albums tend to sell really well and the singles do great on the downloads, they underperform on streaming and radio rankings. While BTS singles have spent 17 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, nothing’s ever gone above No. 5 on the pop airplay chart. When their song with Coldplay “My Universe” hit No. 1, it capped out at No. 21 on streaming.
The six Apollo missions brought back 380 kilograms (837 pounds) of lunar soil and rocks, and that’s a precious quantity of a very important subject of study. If humans want to spend any significant time on the Moon, it’s important to understand the corrosive, electrostatic, and other properties of the main substance that’s going to surround them and their equipment. Unfortunately, 837 pounds of the stuff isn’t enough, so researchers have developed substances that simulate the lunar regolith that can be sold to the companies trying to engineer equipment for the Moon. One of the first was MLS-1 developed at the University of Minnesota in 1988. The renewed interest in lunar exploration has created new demand, and companies like Exolith Lab, founded in 2017, have produced 80 tonnes of lunar and Martian soil simulants since.
IKEA, which has 460 stores in 62 countries, went on a cost-reducing frenzy last year, changing the composition of some of its furniture. The back of a Billy bookcase — some 6.3 million of which are sold a year worldwide — was swapped from a wood veneer to a paper foil printed with wood patterns, and the version now being sold in China is 29 percent cheaper than it previously was, with the new version hitting stores in the U.S. and Europe in 2024. At the scale IKEA operates, those changes can be huge: A redesign of the Flintan chair, one of its most popular swivel chairs, made it more efficient to ship. As a result, IKEA can now fit 6,900 Flintans into one shipping container, up from 2,750 before the redesign.
New York is back, despite vicious and frequent allegations to the contrary. In the first three quarters of the city’s fiscal year, the city’s leisure and hospitality industry sales were up 52.2 percent over the same period a year prior. That’s vastly outpacing the rest of the state, which saw leisure and hospitality sales up just 9.5 percent. The tourism business was devastated by the pandemic, which saw sales drop 66 percent to just $13.2 billion between the fiscal years 2020 and 2021. While this is great news for the Broadway shows, the building tours, the restaurant scene and the many attractions all over the city, Numlock heard nothing but dismay from a statement from a spokesperson from the highly-placed local powerhouse advocacy group Alliance To Restore The Times Square Pornographic Film Theaters.
The explosion of TikTok and the popularity of colorful, ear-tickling short-form candy production videos has been a boon for the some 3,300 physical candy stores that still exist in the United States, who are making bank off sales on the platform. The compelling, visually interesting and often artistic process of producing large quantities of custom-produced candy for whatever reason absolutely kills on the platform, combining the mechanical appeal of a How It’s Made video and the vaguely ASMR of lots of objects bouncing around. One shop, The Candy Closet, racked up a half-million followers on the platform by freeze drying all kind of confectionaries, and now sells 60 different freeze-dried options on their website. Candy Me Up has over 1.1 million, and reports that a single viral post can drive 10,000 orders.
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