Lessons from the month of July

Though wetter and wilder than we might have hoped, July provided a number of appropriately juicy news stories. Join us in looking back on the month that was and sharing what we’ve learned.

1. Barbie went to the box office (SPOILERS)

After a turbo-charged, months-long marketing campaign, Barbie was finally released in theatres this week. In between dance routines and jokes, the movie invites us to ask questions about feminism and the lines between commerce and art. However, not in the way one might’ve expected. The film pivots around motherhood and the difficulty of being a woman more than it does lift us up to shiny Mattel heights. Provoking arguably every hot take one could have (and fairly so, considering everyone in the world had seen it; in the first weekend it raked in about $155 million domestically and another $182 million internationally) the Greta Gerwig piece pokes fun at the limitations of human life as well as doll life, all the while giving the world’s most famous doll a believable hero’s journey. A charming success, Barbie proves to the masses that self-improvement is possible even for a plastic idol whose reason for being is never to change. And boy did the masses align; as actors, writers and producers were ripped from the marketing plan due to SAG AFTRA strikes, massive companies like AirBnB stepped in to help. Is this a good idea? Crucially only if the film does well. Which it has, as of right now.

As with Gerwig’s previous two movies—the wildly successful Lady Bird and Little WomenBarbie is a clever meditation on the nightmarish puzzle of simply trying to exist as a woman in society and a bold reminder that women have been left out of the cultural conversation for too long. Maybe that should be where AirBnB puts its consideration instead?

2. RTÉ update

Right, so unless you have fled the madness for the Costa Del Sol, you’ll know that RTÉ has been in it for some time now. The latest update, according to the Irish Independent anyway, is that the national broadcaster could face bills of millions over an investigation into employment contracts. It is understood that some 500 contracts are being evaluated, with SIPTU revealing that around 12 of its members are set to seek compensation at the Workplace Relations Commission for entitlements they did not receive. (Being classified as contractors, they may have missed out on pensions, sick pay, holiday and possibly maternity and paternity entitlements. If a worker is reclassified as an employee, their employer is liable to pay backdated PRSI.)

While, in Ireland anyway, many generally assume that corruption is a dish best served cold – we oftentimes forget that it needn’t be this way. And legally, it shouldn’t. If there was ever a reminder to keep your side of the street clean, this is it.

3. Insolvencies are up by nearly half

As per new data from CRIFVision-Net, there was a 48% increase in the number of insolvencies during the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2022. 410 between January and June to be exact, up from 277 in the first half of last year. Key sectors affected were hospitality (+214%), construction (+148%) and financial services (+37%). At a county level, both Dublin (+35%) and Cork (+65%) recorded double-digit growth in insolvencies, but other major urban populations like Limerick (-43%) and Galway (-19%) performed more positively, recording significant decreases in insolvencies.

PwC expects the level of business failures to increase further later in the year, as 6,000 companies that availed of Revenue’s Covid tax debt warehousing scheme today owe, on average, around €300,000. A further 57,000 companies owe an average of €5,000 each, according to the report. Ken Tyrrell, a business recovery partner with PwC Ireland, noted that SME liquidations are making up nearly all of the increase in business failures, and this is largely down to the impact of cost inflation, rising interest rates and legacy debt build-up.

“Lender enforcement still remains low, and with so many companies availing of Revenue’s Debt Warehousing Scheme we expect companies will look to formal restructuring processes such as examinership and SCARP to deal with legacy debts,” said Tyrrell.

“Creating a cash-conscious culture is critical to ensure organisations can improve and accelerate their resilience to mitigate the impacts and flourish in the future. To achieve this, everyone in an organisation needs to be focused on cash.

“This is a collective responsibility from the boardroom and across the business – not just the finance team or treasury to make decisions impacting cash.”

4. Climate Change is now

July 4, according to data from the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction, was the hottest day on Earth since at least 1979, with the global average temperature reaching 62.92 degrees Fahrenheit (17.18 degrees Celsius).

However, what’s really scary, is that the days that preceded and proceeded it were the four hottest ever recorded. To understand how significant this is, one must consider that the global average temperature includes the current temperatures for all of the places, including Antarctica, that are in deep winter. No human being has ever lived on a planet this hot. Ice core samples and the geological record indicate that Earth has not seen this kind of global heat in at least 125,000 years. More importantly, we are losing the climate-regulating systems that help moderate surface temperatures.

While we may be moaning about the rain, the rest of the world is legitimately suffering; wildfires in Greece, temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius in North Africa and in the Middle East thousands have been enduring unusually scorching heat as they make the hajj religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

So, what do we do? Learn from the best. We suggest starting here.

5. Threads

What’s to be said for another social media platform? Enter Threads, the Meta-launched, Instagram-inspired app set to rival Twitter. It enjoyed a fairly fruitful first week in existence, it has to be said, sailing past 30 million users in the first 24 hours before passing 100 million signups within five days. And just last week, numbers from Data.ai indicated that Threads has now hit 150 million downloads.

However, another completely unrelated app has been inadvertently thrust into the spotlight off the back of Instagram’s attempt to capitalise on the Twitter mess.

Threads, a Slack alternative that launched out of stealth back in 2019 with backing from Sequoia Capital, has seen a significant increase in traffic to its website in the days following its new namesake’s launch. This is largely owing to the fact that Threads (the Slack alternative) owns the Threads.com domain name, whereas Instagram’s incarnation is on the less sexy Threads.net (though the app doesn’t have a web interface as of yet).

With all of that said, however, Threads seems to be flailing quite significantly this week. Data shows user engagement has fallen 70% as executives focus on options such as a chronological feed.

Either way, it’s not for us to decide as the app won’t be launched in Ireland or the EU for the foreseeable future, likely because of GDPR and/or EU privacy rules. (Sources close to Meta said that the tech giant has refrained from rolling the service out in the EU because of what the company believes is a lack of clarity contained in the EU’s Digital Markets Act. Under the Act, companies such as Meta become “gatekeepers”, with restrictions on how they mingle users’ personal data.) Sometimes it’s nice to be a little left out.

As for actual Twitter, that seems to be gone now too. The bird hub has rebranded to X as part of Elon Musk’s plan to create an “everything app”. The tech billionaire, who took over the platform in October 2022, replaced the famous blue bird with the new logo in the last week of June after crowdsourcing ideas from users over the weekend.

He also reportedly informed employees by email that Twitter would become X, as well as redirected the domain X.com to Twitter.com. Linda Yaccarino, who Musk hired to be the chief executive of Twitter last month, confirmed the switch in a series of tweets late on Sunday. “It’s an exceptionally rare thing – in life or in business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression,” she wrote.

6. Center Parcs is flying it

Center Parcs, which is currently subject to a bidding process for a circa £4bn sale, has reported its best-ever annual results; a reported revenue of £593.8m for the year to 20 April 2023, up from £503.4m in 2022.

Highlights included total guest numbers of 2.1 million, with occupancy returning to 97.1% of pre-pandemic levels (2022: 80.5%). It also reported 93% guest satisfaction (those rating their break as excellent or good) and 95% guest loyalty (those indicating an intention to return). In Ireland, the Longford family centre is booked out until December, and it’s believed the UK locations are equally busy. “The Center Parcs Group has delivered its best ever annual results for the 52 weeks ended 20 April 2023. The business has a strong track record of resilience underpinned by strong guest loyalty,” group chief executive Colin McKinlay says. “During the year, the demand for Center Parcs short breaks in the UK remained very strong, despite a backdrop of the rising cost-of-living, high energy prices and industrial action.”

To summarise, yes it’s been a bit of a batshit month, news-wise anyway. Perhaps the heat has gotten to us all (‘all’ being everywhere except Ireland, which has been under a raincloud for three weeks now) changing our decision patterns to the point of destruction. That said, there are few times when the belief that better days are ahead has felt so strong. Meteorologically, at least.

Overall impressions? Musk really thinks of himself as an infallible Richie Rich doesn’t he? However, as pointed out by a Twitter user during the week, typing the letter X into a search bar first is dangerous in the workplace. For now, let us put our hope into the best thing coming out of Ireland at the minute; the women’s World Cup squad. They may have narrowly lost their first two pool games, and are currently having it out with Nigeria, but few times, as a country at least, have women ever let us down. Apart from Deirdre Conroy, of course. Now, go wash your dishes in the en suite.

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