When I was a little kid, everyone in our family and neighborhood called me JT. They still do. My middle name is Thomas and yes – U.K. friends – I realize the humor in being named John Thomas Dick. Look it up. My parents obviously didn’t.
Actually, it was my great-great-grandparents. I’m John Thomas Dick III – it skipped my dad, who was just Thomas. He suffered through “Tom Dick and Harry” his whole life. He fondly called me Shithead.
When I hit grade school, the teachers called me John, as did the new kids I was meeting. I remember thinking how weird it sounded.
In college, all my fraternity brothers merely called me Dick. Partly because “bros” often call each other by their last name, but mostly because when your last name is Dick, you don’t need a deprecating fraternity nickname.
In my early career, it was primarily John again, though my initial business partner was the first person to regularly call me JD. That didn’t stick until CivicScience – where everyone calls me JD. I sign off from most of my emails that way, including this one. It’s efficient.
Despite all that, I still get John the most, particularly in business. It’s the professional thing to do when you don’t know me well enough to call me by my initials or – certainly – Dick.
At this point, it all sounds the same, or at least that’s how my brain processes it. I don’t even have a preference to be honest. Although I really can’t stand when people call me Mr. Dick. Because, seriously. Who wants to be Mr. Dick?
The only worse thing is when someone addresses me as Dick because they think that’s my first name. It’s a failproof way to make sure I won’t accept your LinkedIn request.
I’ve never been cool enough to go by Johnny. So, if any of you would like to start a trend, that would be awesome. Find me a Johnny who isn’t a legend.
But I suspect I’m about to get 100 replies today from people referring to me as Mr. Dick or Dick, just to be funny. Trust me, someone will beat you to it.
That’s fine, though. If you’ve read this email for any extended period, you certainly know me well enough by now to call me anything you want.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Comfort shopping in stores is outpacing consumer confidence, which means something even if I don’t know what it is yet. If you’ve ever asked yourself why I always start this email with the latest reading of the Economic Sentiment Index, it’s because the damn thing predicts just about everything else. For sure, since COVID started, we can see strong correlations between rising or falling economic sentiment and consumers’ level of comfort shopping, eating out, etc. For the first time, the light blue line below (shopping in stores) climbed above the green one this last month. Unless something goes wrong, the yellow line should pass it in October. Also notable in the chart below is that confidence in attending public events isn’t climbing at the same rate as the others. When I figure out what all this means, I’ll tell you. Or maybe I’ll just keep it to myself and bet the hell out of the stock market.
The restaurant industry would be doing a lot better if everyone belonged to a survey panel, just kidding. OK, this is a bit of inside baseball, but we love to study the strange birds who sit at home answering surveys for money. For sure, if you want someone to plow through a 30-minute survey, you need a paid guinea pig for that. But the reliability risks of that have gotten worse and worse during COVID. Panelists – roughly 9% of people in the U.S. – are a different breed. They’re hyper-engaged consumers, value shoppers, saturated with media, and glad to sign up for anything you throw at them. They’re even more eager to jump back into stores, COVID be damned. I’m just not sure they provide the most reliable signals in the world.
Lower-income folks are worried they won’t be able to get tested for COVID. Ironically, this excellent study my friend Mary published this week was mostly about how much more comfortable everyone is getting about things like dining out or their access to screening or testing for COVID. But what jumped out at me was one chart – showing how concerned lower-income Americans are about getting COVID tests when they need them. It’s particularly bad among people in labor or service jobs.
Digital banking hasn’t seen the COVID bump we may have expected. When you see what a watershed moment the pandemic has been for “touchless” services like telemedicine, online grocery, and restaurant delivery, it would be easy to foresee a similar boon for online and mobile banking. But we simply haven’t seen it. Maybe it’s because you can still use a drive-thru at the bank. Maybe it’s because a lot of tech savvy young folks are staying at home and spending Mom’s money. Or maybe it’s because all the sophisticated professionals who are lucky enough to work from home were already doing it. Maybe it’s all those things.
A divisive, neck-and-neck, high-stakes battle is coming in early November – between the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. No sooner do we turn the page (hopefully) on the presidential election, the two most anticipated gaming consoles in a long time will be hitting shelves. Enthusiasm for the PS5 among gamers is better than the new Xbox, consistent with numbers we saw in January. But holiday-season purchase intent between the two systems is nearly identical – among distinct segments of consumers. This will be a fun campaign to watch, without all the stress and discord.
More studies we did this week:
- Walmart is pushing private label apparel and it has solid potential with their core shoppers;
- Most categories of packaged and frozen foods have returned to the norm after big jumps during early COVID;
- Gen Z is looking to ramp up their investing in the stock market, while those who are most pessimistic about COVID are feeling bearish;
- Clothing subscription kits have taken a hard hit for obvious reasons – time to pivot to sweatpants;
- Expect to see more Republicans picking pumpkins and attending fall festivals this year;
- And don’t be surprised if drones are delivering your packages and pizzas in the near future.
And our most popular questions this week:
- In general, do you consider your sitting posture really good, really bad, or somewhere in between?
- How often do you use voice commands to search the internet and / or send texts from your cell phone?
- Have you ever deleted a social media account, only to sign up again for the same platform some time later?
- Would you say you’re pretty good at fixing up things around your house / apartment on your own when necessary?
- In general, how do you feel about surprise parties?
Answer Key: Terrible; Never; Nope; Terrible; Meh.
Hoping you’re well.
JD aka JT aka John aka Dick aka Shithead