What caught my attention – week of 28 October 2019

Once again, greetings from Singapore! Below are a few articles and videos that I found interesting this week.


1. My all time favourite website… Astronomy picture of the day (from NASA)

Space has been a childhood fascination and a few months ago I found this website that NASA updates daily with fantastic and often eyeopening pictures from and about space. Whenever I open up my computer during the day for the first time it’s the first website I visit.


2. Esports are hitting US retailers… US-based retailer Five Below announced plans to turn several of its stores into esports hubs (no link but I highly recommend subscribing to Trendwatching’s daily updates if you’re interested in consumer trends)

This month,  Five Below, where most items retail for USD 5 or below, say they will convert over 70 of their 850 stores across the US into 3,000 sq ft esports spaces hosting live events, tournaments, training camps and more. The retailer recently participated in a fundraising round for Nerd Street Gamers, which sets up esports centers. The centers will include pro-level gaming equipment, and be available for both pros and amateurs to use. Here are two takeaways:

Village Squared. Like every retailer in 2019, Five Below faces a key challenge: what are physical retail spaces for in a world of ecommerce? Their answer with this initiative: community. The burgeoning esports economy is worth over USD 1 billion a year. And that means there’s a huge, and growing, community of gamers fueling it. At a time when traditional social bonds have been frayed by tech addition, on-demand lifestyles, political polarization and more, consumers will see huge value in innovative spaces that bring people together in new ways and help repair the social fabric. Whether you’re a retailer or not you can ask: how can you leverage physical to bring people together in 2020?

Experiential: everywhere. You’ve heard the mantra a million times: rising numbers of consumers now prioritize experiences over objects. But the eye-catching experiences on offer tend to cluster around major, globalised cities: just take two we’ve covered recently – the Standard Dose CBD store/wellness center in New York and the (Not So) Convenience Store in Singapore. Many Five Below stores, however, are located in suburban communities all across the US, and this initiative will bring the best in gaming gear, and the chance to meet industry pros, to those communities. It’s a valuable reminder that billions of consumers outside major cities have expectations just as sky-high when it comes to the experience economy; those under-served consumers represent a massive opportunity.


3. Diamonds in the rough… Life at the frozen edge of Russia’s giant diamond mines (Tortoise)

I recently got introduced to Tortoise which is a “slow-news” media company and community. Their pieces are normally long form, very well written and worth pondering on.

This particular piece:

Some 5,000 miles east of Moscow, deep in the Siberian wilderness, there is a small republic that exists purely thanks to the discovery of diamonds. Five times the size of France but with a population of less than a million people, the Sakha Republic produces 28% of all world’s rough diamonds, helping to make the Russian Federation the largest diamond producer in the world.

The Mir diamond pit, one of the largest in the world, opened here in the 1950s – and spawned an entire town to serve it, called Mirny (meaning “peace”). It is an example of what Russians call “monogorods” – towns that exist to serve just one major factory, or industry. In the Sakha Republic, more than 50% of the population work directly or indirectly for Alrosa, the world’s biggest diamond producer.

But life in Sakha, also known as Yakutia, is hard. Workers endure 7-9 months of winter and prolonged periods of extreme cold in which temperatures can drop to -50°c. This photo essay explores the loneliness and isolation many diamond workers face, and the challenge of trying to establish life in such hostile regions so close to the Arctic Circle.


4. Bling bling… How LVMH might grow Tiffany & Co. (Vogue Business)

Key takeaways:

Tiffany & Co. is in the middle of a brand repositioning, but its financial performance still lags.

The US brand makes significant revenue from accessible silver jewellery, complicating LVMH’s ability to replicate Bulgari’s playbook of focusing on core, high-end lines.

Tiffany has significant brand recognition in China’s relatively unpenetrated jewellery market, though it faces competition from homegrown brands.


5. Music… Rapping, deconstructed: The best rhymers of all time (VOX on Youtube)

I’m a huge music fan and very much interested in the music business too (see book of the week below). This video deconstructs well-known rappers and their lyrics in a very insightful way using data, analytics and visuals.


+1 Book of the week: Eric Clapton – Clapton: The Autobiography (Amazon)

I practically grew up on his music (he is one of the living guitar legends) and played it too on the guitar (it is very very hard work) so it was a pleasure to read his biography.

From the back cover:

With striking intimacy and candor, Eric Clapton tells the story of his eventful and inspiring life in this poignant and honest autobiography.

More than a rock star, Eric Clapton is an icon, a living embodiment of the history of rock music. Well known for his reserve in a profession marked by self-promotion, flamboyance, and spin, he now chronicles, for the first time, his remarkable personal and professional journeys.