Numlock News: May 7, 2020 • Black Holes, Fortnite, Sweatpants
By Walt Hickey
Match Group, which owns a number of dating sites such as Tinder, reported $545 million in first quarter revenue yesterday, on par with the $547 million logged in the previous quarter and up significantly from the $465 million made in the same quarter of 2019. Despite the collapse of physical dating, consumers remain interested in swiping even if it won’t lead anywhere for a little while, and Match is orchestrating video dates with the intention of launching one-to-one live videos on Tinder sometime this quarter. Match seeks to invent a previously untapped business model, a brilliant innovation never attempted before: can you actually make money off of connecting hot, local singles in your area that want no-strings-attached steamy internet chats?
The wholesale price for Grade A large eggs rose from $1.01 per dozen to $3.07 over the course of March, prompting a variety of lawsuits against egg sellers and producers over price gouging. The average American consumes 293 eggs per year, and in California — where one of the suits was filed — it’s an average of 300 per person, meaning the state needs a billion eggs per month. Not to get technical, but the industry translation is that one Gaston-Day is 60 eggs, meaning that’s 4.88 Gaston-Days for a typical American. Current USDA estimates have the average price of eggs in 2020 being $1.27 per dozen, up 35 percent from last year.
Comcast released new data related to how people are watching television during the lockdowns, and in my reading, the message is “you are not alone.” Comcast’s data found an extra eight hours of television and video viewing per week, with households hitting 66 hours of television the week of April 26 compared to 57 hours the week of March 8. Sleep cycles are messier: late night viewship hours are up 40 percent, while the 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. periods are down 6 percent.
Wednesday, Fortnite developer Epic announced that it had 350 million registered players, making it one of the most popular games in history. The last time Epic announced player count — March 2019 — Fortnite had about 250 million players, so it’s still growing as a game despite being two and a half years old. In April alone, players logged 3.2 billion hours of Fortnite.
Overall, apparel sales were down more than 50 percent in March. There is a bright spot, one sole market segment that is gleaming green in a sea of red ink: even though activewear is down 16 percent, sales of sweatpants are up 2 percent according to NPD Group, and sellouts on sweatpants were up 79 percent for U.S. retailers. I, for one, am shocked, shocked I tell you, that everyone feels like a crisis such as this is time to sartorially slack off, or even go about their workday dressed like Winnie the Pooh. All the work-from-home guides emphasize getting dressed in work clothes; so what if my designated work pants are a pair of Navy Champion Jersey Joggers that, on a standard 720p HD webcam, are indistinguishable from slacks?
Buy To Rent
Rental car companies do an enormous percentage of their business at airports, and, in general, have seen their entire reason for existence wiped out temporarily, and it’s probably the worst thing to happen to Hertz since the O.J. Simpson trial. That’s reverberating back to the car business: sales to rental car companies fell 77 percent to 32,944 vehicles in April. For car manufacturers, the “fleet industry” — rental car companies, black car services, and so on — can be something like 20 percent of their U.S. business, with the rental channel dominating. Even just Avis and Hertz alone are a sizable piece of business for some companies: 2.95 percent of Kia’s revenue comes from the pair of rental companies, as does 2.03 percent of GM’s, 1.41 percent of Ford’s and 1.37 percent of Fiat Chrysler’s.
A new paper in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics details evidence of what is possibly the closest known black hole to Earth. HR 6819 is a faintly visible star system where one of the two known stars was observed to be orbiting something once every 40 days. When a star is orbiting something, that’s generally considered a weird sign that something’s up. Further observation and inspection shows this object may be a black hole with a mass estimated to be 4.2 times that of the sun. Other alternatives are possible — it was originally thought to be a binary star system, but that didn’t add up with the observed data, but it could be a four-star system — but rest easy knowing that maybe, just maybe, the nearest all-consuming abyss of space-time is closer than you may have thought before!
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