November 30, 2015
One of the roles of The Weekly is to bring new trends in business and society to your attention. We cannot comment on all but a recent trend was brought to light over Thanksgiving by a family member who is in the publishing business. While many think publishing is dead, the reality is quite different. Publishing has become a cutthroat, low margin business where one new style or a storyline from a hot new author can capture the interest of millions of readers, and generate significant new revenue. This is all easy to understand but the latest trend caught me completely off guard – the rise of “adult coloring books”.
Sitting at our kitchen table during a reflective, post-Thanksgiving moment, I watched my two adult daughters in quiet contemplation working on a book with pencils in hand. It reminded me of them working on their homework years ago. I asked what they were doing and they said they were coloring. Coloring, I thought? My mind raced back twenty years to taking in the smell of crayons while urging the girls to keep within the lines. And now here were my two adult children patiently trying to decide what color to use as they each filled out an intricate design that required the steadiest of hands to complete. The main difference seemed to be that pencils and gel pens have replaced Crayola colors. This activity must be occurring in millions of other venues as my book publishing daughter informed me that adult coloring books are their number one seller, far ahead of the genre in second place.
Upon hearing about the large volumes of high end coloring books her company ships to retailers, I decided to check out this industry a bit further. In 2011 a British publisher approached illustrator Johanna Basford for a black and white pattern coloring book for children. It was to be high quality and carry more intricate designs than most children’s books in the past. The author suggested that the book be made for adults. An initial order of 13,000 was placed, and by 2013 over two million had been purchased. As time has passed others illustrators have joined the fashion, and the phenomena continues to grow. Currently the top two books sold on Amazon Global are adult coloring books.
There does not appear to be any one reason for this success. Aging experts have stated that coloring has the similar positive effects of engaging the mind and brain that have been shown with word and number games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles. But the real appeal is likely the relaxing effect of coloring. Most of those that color admit that they feel a sense of peacefulness when they are coloring. Unlike the more challenging word and number games, coloring can be done in a social setting and conversations can occur. I suspect that the reason it has captured, and is sustaining, a large share of the book publishing market is that it is just plain fun.
November 23, 2015
The past two weeks I enjoyed some good old fashioned southern road trips, as I visited clients and looked at some investment opportunities during travels across a five state region. During the lead up to Thanksgiving I want to share with my readers some observations from the road about the things for which I am grateful.
How wonderful it is to live in a region where there are roads named Old Watermelon Road, New Watermelon Road, and Buttermilk Road. Thank you, Tuscaloosa, which was also the site of one of my few desperately needed Starbucks breaks. A latte, with an extra three shots of espresso, always works to keep me alert for the last leg home to Atlanta. It would also appear that at 2:30 pm every female student attending the University of Alabama is also in Starbucks. Of the fourteen people in line, I was the only male. From an investment observation every single woman in that line was paying with their Apple phone. Take note world, the way the next generation pays for stuff is changing.
The market in the week before Thanksgiving continued to grind higher and I am thankful that for the start of the Thanksgiving week investors should be feeling a sense of a rising net worth.
One surprising road observation was finding a gas station that had a sign for regular unleaded at $1.59 per gallon. After filling up with cheap gas, I met someone who fits my description of a risk taker. He is a young man who has just moved in next door to my Mother, and he is a true entrepreneur. Now in the rural South an entrepreneur is not the same as the slick folks found in Silicon Valley. No, this young man has seen an opportunity and has risked his capital to start a repair shop to fix ATVs (all terrain vehicles). For folks in the country the ATV has replaced the truck, tractor, horse and mule as the must have thing to get around in the woods, or just about anywhere on your property. My mother’s neighbor had been frustrated finding a service shop to keep his own ATVs in working order, and so he started the only repair shop in a 30-mile radius to fix these things. I asked how business was doing, and he said “huge, I need to hire two more workers”. As I’ve learned from so many clients, wealth is generated in many different ways. This is the true American business story. More wealth and jobs in America are created by people like this young man than by anything done in Silicon valley.
I am thankful for my strong willed Mother who fights daily to stay independent in her own home, and for the rest of my family who somehow have all figured out a way to come home for this special week. I know that there will be times they will not be able to make it home for the holidays so I must remember to enjoy these times as much as I can. Lastly, I am thankful to all my readers and clients that have taught me so much. Your kind words of encouragement and appreciation make it easier when the words and ideas for this little piece are sometimes difficult to find.