5 "Death Trends" in the Consumer and Retail Sector

Markets Motley Fool

In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are joined by Vincent Shen, host of Industry Focus: Consumer Goods, to talk about his corner of the U.S. economy -- and, more specifically, the ways specific sectors are experiencing significant headwinds. From cable television to restaurants, innovation and competition are shaking things up, but some of this disruption is not quite as deadly as the media insists.

Continue Reading Below

A full transcript follows the video.

10 stocks we like better than Amazon
When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Amazon wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of July 6, 2017

Continue Reading Below

This video was recorded on March 10, 2017.

Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick, and my partner in crime is Robert Brokamp, personal-finance expert here at The Motley Fool. In this week's episode, we're going to look at the growing trend of death in the consumer-goods sector with help from Motley Fool Industry Focus' Vince Shen. We're also going to answer your question about financial trust issues as you head into retirement. All that, and more, on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.

It's time for "Answers Answers," and today's question comes from Becky in Arizona. Becky writes, "I am retired already, but I married a younger guy" -- you go, Becky! -- "so we have a few years yet before he retires. When he does leave the workaday world, he will have a substantial 401(k) to move somewhere: At least, in my book, $700,000 is substantial. I'm shaking in my shoes. I think I should handle the money myself but am scared I'll mess up. But I also don't want to just handle it over to someone else to take care of it, either. I may have trust issues here. I have investing-induced rigor mortis. What baby steps should I take now to prepare for the big bang of bucks that's five to seven years away?"

Robert Brokamp: Well, Becky, $700,000 in a 401(k) is, indeed, substantial. According to Fidelity, the average 401(k) balance for workers in their 50s is $152,000.

Southwick: Oh, wow! Good job!

Brokamp: I know! For workers in their 60s it's $167,000, so your husband's done a good job of saving.

Southwick: Young and rich!

Brokamp: And it probably took him many years to build that up -- decades, even -- and I can totally understand how you'd be nervous when it comes time to manage that yourself.

When you think about saving for retirement, you get a little help. There's often some education along with a 401(k). Maybe someone from the 401(k) company comes over and does a workshop. You have target retirement funds. And if the market goes down, you can at least tell yourself, "Well, it's a buying opportunity, and in all my future contributions I'll be able to buy stocks cheaper."

But when you're in retirement it's different, because you're not getting any help. There's very little education about it, and if the portfolio goes down, that feels like a real unrecoverable loss, so I totally get the investing-induced rigor mortis, which I think is a great phrase, by the way.

Southwick: And you're going to steal it from her, aren't you, for another Rule Your Retirement article.

Brokamp: That's going to be my next book. Anyway, here's what I suggest you do. Create a practice portfolio. Go to an online portfolio tracker -- one of my favorites is Morningstar -- and just set up a portfolio and manage it as if your husband has retired. Come up with a model portfolio from any of your readings. Books. If you remember, the Rule Your Retirement service has model portfolios there.

You don't have to get it right, right off the bat. Just create something. Then keep an investing journal, which we've talked about in previous episodes, about why you pick certain investments. Why you decided to sell certain investments. I would recommend that you also decide how much you're going to take out of it every year. Once that time of year comes, you decide which investments you will sell in this practice portfolio.

So if you do this for a few years -- practicing and learning -- by the time it comes for your husband to retire, you'll have a good sense of whether you want to do this on your own or whether you want to hire a financial advisor.

The good news is this isn't an all-or-nothing decision. You may have one account now, but you can roll it into multiple IRAs. So you roll it over to an account with a financial planner, but you can manage some of it yourself.

You can actually roll it over to a couple of financial advisors. I know a lot of people do that because they don't want all their money with one advisor. They want some advisor diversification. So a couple of financial planners; you, handling some of it on your own. Then, as the years go by, you might decide "I'm ready to do it all myself," or "I'm kind of tired of this. I'm retired. I want to take it easy," and you go with the financial planner. But if you start practicing now and keep learning along the way, I'm confident that you'll make the right decision when your husband retires in a few years.

Southwick: This week we're continuing our series on deep dives into sectors of the stock market thanks to the good folks over at the Motley Fool Industry Focus podcast. This week we're looking at the consumer goods section, thanks to Vince Shen, although I'm going to start calling him Vin, because it's so cool. He edits the consumer-goods section content for Fool.com and hosts Motley Fool Industry Focus every Tuesday. Vince, thanks for joining us today.

Vince Shen: Thank you so much.

Southwick: I'm just going to call you Vince, because that's actually your name.

Shen: That's going to be tough for you to keep up.

Southwick: I'm going to try. I'm going to make this happen. Before we get into the consumer-goods section, I want to hear about the path that led you to The Motley Fool. How did you come to be working here? Ten feet from me?

Shen: First off, thanks for having me on the show. I love Motley Fool Answers. I learn a ton from your show. So it's really cool to be in studio with you guys. But my path to the Fool was my previous job, which was investment banking. A kind of typical Wall Street affair. I did three years there. I felt chained to my desk at times -- literally chained to my desk at times.

Southwick: Literally?

Shen: No, but in terms of the hours that we spent there, it certainly felt that way.

Southwick: I would not be surprised, though, if literally at some point in time someone was chained to a desk.

Shen: Major vitamin D deficiency from not being outside, but I learned a lot in that time and the people were great. It was really cool to work on IPOs and these different equity offerings. Again, the people I met were so sharp. It was a cool environment to be in, but not really something I could see myself in long term.

And so when I left my banking job, I didn't know what to do, but I knew that I needed to get away, so I spent about a half year traveling in South America and Southeast Asia. And this also coincided with the time that I would start dating my wife-to-be.

Southwick: You had an Eat, Love, Pray situation going on.

Shen: The first place we went was Ecuador. I got to meet her whole family, literally that entire side of her family. It was quite overwhelming, especially because my Spanish is...

Southwick: No bueno.

Shen: Exactly. But coming back, I first started looking at jobs traditionally in the financial sector where I was. Then I realized it doesn't make sense. I just left -- ran away, literally -- and coming back to do the same thing because I felt comfortable there.

I moved down to D.C., which is where my wife is, and I just started looking at different opportunities out here. I discovered the Fool. I had read some content on Fool.com before. And when I read more about the culture, obviously, "best place to work" and things like that, it seemed really appealing. And when I interviewed and got a sense of the place, I realized I still could use some of my finance background, and then I get to go from a huge bank to a smaller company, a much less formal atmosphere...

Brokamp: More sunlight. Fewer chains.

Shen: More sunlight and it's been amazing.

Southwick: Oh! Well, I enjoy working with you, too. Again, you literally do sit -- not chained --, but 15 feet from me. So today we're going to talk about the consumer-goods sector, and it's massive...

Shen: Yes.

Southwick: What is it made of?

Shen: I had a hard time trying to think about how to present this, because we call the show Consumer Goods. It covers consumer and retail, so you have to think about the side where the companies actually make all the goods and then also the side in terms of how it's sold when you go to the store.

I looked at some formal industry classifications from the FTSE. They break things down for you. And the easiest way I can say it is you have your food and beverage companies, you have your personal household goods -- and you can imagine how massive that category alone is --

Southwick: Toys, clothes, pots and pans.

Shen: Exactly. You have retail, which is the sell side of it, I guess. You have media and entertainment and then travel and leisure. So hotels. It technically includes airlines as well, but I will let Sean O'Reilly take that one on the industrial side. But you can imagine it covers all kinds of companies. I really like this space, personally, because it's a lot of companies that are household names that we encounter every day. It made it very accessible for me when I first started getting into it. I used to cover oil and gas, and this is, frankly, much more interesting.

Southwick: Yeah, it's much more relatable because, like you said, they're household names. It also seems like a sector where, as an individual investor, you might potentially get overweighted, but maybe it doesn't matter because it is so broad.

Shen: I'd say that going into it, especially for, I think, beginning investors -- and this includes myself -- when I first started looking at stocks, you want to go to what you're familiar with. And I had heard from people, "Invest in what you know, and invest in things that you see. Like if you go to a restaurant and the lines are really long, that's a pretty good sign. Maybe you can look at them and see how their financials are. Do a little bit more due diligence, and that's a potential stock pick for you."

You never want to be too overweight, I think, in any single industry. But fortunately, this one's big enough, I think. If you look at the subsectors within it, you can hedge your bets that way and diversify so that they're not all trending in the exact same direction.

Southwick: Yeah, these also seem like companies where if the economy isn't doing so well, they may be the first hit. Like if you get laid off your job, you're not going to watch the latest Marvel movie. I don't know. Maybe you are.

Shen: Or eat out as much, for that matter. Or buy that new suit, or new outfit, or whatever it may be.

Southwick: So do you get concerned when people start worrying about the economy? Or do you just, like, stay the course?

Shen: I think certain companies within this space are good, I guess, counters in terms of that cyclical environment, but overall it's definitely a risk factor that you should be aware of. But if you're investing with a long-term horizon, which obviously we recommend here very often, you can ride that out and I think, overall, in terms of consumer spending, the growth that we've seen is a long-term trend that you can take some relief in, in terms of looking at the companies in this space.

Brokamp: And in those types of situations, too, there's often substitutions. So while people may not go out to eat as much, that means that they're buying more groceries and eating at home. And I think if I remember correctly, things like sales of alcohol actually go up in a recession, so there are some counter-trends.

Southwick: You're hedging within the sector. It's great.

Shen: It's surprising, too, because of some industries you think would definitely be hit in a cycle -- for instance, tobacco companies. You would think that because people are smoking less and less, they'd really be hurting, but they've managed to kind of work their business, raise prices, go international, and focus on markets abroad. They've been able to actually still pay out a really healthy dividend to their shareholders and basically buck a trend where I think a lot of people otherwise believe that tobacco companies are on their way out. Actually, they're quite strong.

Southwick: OK, so today we're going to dig into five death trends to watch in this sector. The reason why I'm calling it "five death trends" -- and I think probably The Motley Fool is just as guilty of this as any other company -- is we will often have headlines that will say "The Death of" blank. And so it just so happens that there's a lot of death going on in your sector.

Shen: Apparently.

Southwick: Apparently. We'll get into each of these. So the first one we're going to look at is "the death of retailers."

Shen: Funny enough, we actually just had a show in Industry Focus talking about this and what the lay of the land is for retailers, a few weeks ago. I think it's obvious to most people who do any shopping that there's been a really big shift in terms of the retail landscape in the past weeks and a lot of that's been facilitated by technology. According to comScore, over 80% of mobile-phone owners in the U.S. have a smartphone and only 10 years ago that was 3%, so basically you have the world's shopping cart in your hand at all times.

You hear about Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and e-commerce, and that has really come through in terms of store closures and bankruptcies. So I found some of the big chains that have declared bankruptcy just in the past few years -- places like Gander Mountain, Payless Shoes, Sports Authority, Radio Shack, Circuit City -- and that is generally what I feel like people refer to when they talk about the death of retail. It's just this sea change of retailers having to adapt to e-commerce and basically the fact that when consumers shop, they want to do it exactly the way they want, where they want to, and they want to get it whether they pick it up in the store, deliver it to their home. There's just a lot of different options that these companies have to kind of anticipate now.

Southwick: And Amazon is the go-to of online shopping, but are there other retailers that are successfully making the move from bricks and mortar to online? Like, who do you think has done the best job in not dying?

Shen: There are certainly a lot of companies that have tried. And if you're big enough -- if you're a Wal-Mart, for example -- you can just buy the guys who are doing really well. So they made an acquisition recently, for Jet.com. And this is a company started by a really sharp guy who knows, I feel, the e-commerce space really well. The previous company he started was acquired by Amazon.com, no less.

And the way they've approached it is people want that value and that convenience, so when you go onto their site, if and when you buy something they will lower the price if you give up returns, if you pay with a debit card, if you decide to forgo a speedier form of shipping or something along those lines. And if you buy more than one, for example, it's also cheaper. So that's an interesting approach when you're that size.

Other companies, I think, especially in the apparel space, like Nike and Under Armour, have also embraced the idea that the online platform gives them a lot of options where they can offer customized shoes. If you go through their site you can choose the colors you want and charge a premium on that. And they also usually enjoy pretty good margins from that medium.

So those are just a few quick examples, I think, of the companies that have approached it pretty well. And the fact that Wal-Mart, I think, is still trying to figure out exactly how they're going to run their site long term -- they're definitely spending the money and investing in those efforts.

Southwick: All right. The next death trend to watch in consumer goods is the death of toys.

Brokamp: This is so sad.

Shen: This one breaks my heart. I feel like I'm right around the age where my childhood was still more traditional. I played with a lot of action figures and games when I was a kid. But when I see my friends with kids now, they're always on some type of electronic device. Plugged into the internet at all times. And you see this play out with some of the industry leaders. Mattel, for example, has struggled for years because some of their, I guess, flagship brands -- which include Barbie and American Girl dolls -- just are not selling like the way that they used to.

But as it turns out, the toy industry overall is growing, so this is kind of a fake death.

Southwick: Oh, OK. Greatly exaggerated.

Shen: Well, just like retail is kind of a fake death because certain people are approaching it very well. For toys, there are still segments that these companies are seeing a lot of success in, and I think a big one from 2016 was in games and puzzles.

So before you had Battleship, you had Risk and Monopoly. Now you have all these new games. Personally in my collection I have stuff like Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo, Sushi GO! These are really cool games. A lot of people talk about it being, like, a golden age for games and puzzles and they're seeing a lot of success there.

And at the same time, in terms of dolls and action figures, companies still do really well when they partner with the right intellectual property. So if you go to Hollywood, obviously Star Wars sells a ton of toys. Disney princesses sell a ton of toys. So the companies that can lock down those licenses, those agreements with the right entertainment companies, the right IP, they still do really well.

And then also you have toy companies going to video games. Lego has done a great job with this, in that they have movies, they have TV shows, they have their video games. Their two major theatrical releases have grossed, I think, almost $800 million at the box office. This is definitely one we talked about before the show. It's more of an evolution, I think, than a true death.

Southwick: Yeah. The next death is the death of cable.

Shen: OK, this one I will call a slow, gradual dying process.

Brokamp: Something we should all be familiar with.

Shen: I would focus here, on streaming services like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Amazon Prime. They basically changed our expectations, right, from what we expect our television to do and to show us. We're tired of ads. We want to binge watch an entire series in a weekend. And the cable companies, I think, are seeing the results of this, but it's very slow.

So if you look at some of the data from this industry -- I pulled these numbers from eMarketer -- the number of households subscribed to traditional pay-TV services -- so think cable, satellite TV -- they are forecast to decline about 1% to 2% each year for the foreseeable future, whereas on the flip side, the non-pay-TV households are growing in the high single digits and they're accelerating. But when you look at that, you see one side is declining slowly, the other side is growing very quickly, it's going to start flipping soon, but you have to look at where they're starting from. There's about 100 million traditional pay-TV households. There's about 20 million non-pay-TV households.

So it's going to take a long time for those numbers to balance out, and the shift you're also seeing is you have people who are cutting the cord, and you also have people who never signed up for cable in the first place. So they're missing out on that side of the market.

Then I feel like there's a slow death for the box office and Hollywood -- especially theater operators -- where you see these big blockbusters come out. They'll make over $1 billion but in actuality each year for the past 15 years, ticket sales have been declining. And I think it's just because of the entertainment options. Now you have a Netflix, you have an Amazon Prime, or you have all these new video games or whatever it may be, it's not as compelling anymore to go to the theater.

But even in that case, they kind of find ways to balance themselves, where they'll sell you a more expensive ticket because of IMAX, or there's more options at the concession stand. I feel like when I was a kid, it was always popcorn and a soda. Now you can get chicken tenders, wings, and all this crazy stuff. You can have a whole meal in the theater, or you can pay for an assigned seat. And so even though ticket sales have declined, I think, about 20% in the past 15 years, ticket prices have gone up 50%, and that makes up a lot for that difference. And that's the slow death on that side.

Southwick: It's such a cliche to say content is king, but speaking of being in the golden age of games, we're also in a golden age of television, so really is it all about your content strategy? Is that who's going to win here? If Netflix can keep producing stuff that's compelling, interesting, and original, is that really where you need to focus?

Shen: I think so. People are willing to pay for that quality content. I think Netflix and Amazon Prime are perfect examples of that, where Amazon will pour billions of dollars into their content creation and they know that there's no direct line in terms of that return on investment. But the more people they can sign on to their Prime membership, they know that Prime members tend to spend more. Quite a bit more than non-Prime members on Amazon. And that's their ticket, right?

And for Netflix -- both these companies won their first Academy Awards in February, so earlier this year. And I think that lends them this legitimacy and also the idea that maybe in the future movies don't have to go AMC or whatever theater chain it might be. They'll release a really strong movie straight to the streaming service and people will want to pay that monthly subscription to access content like that.

So I definitely think there is credibility in the idea that where the good content is, is where people ultimately flock to and when they can access it the way they want, you can watch your Netflix on your computer, on your TV, on your mobile phone if you're traveling -- that's a lot for these bigger, slower-moving, traditional pay TV companies, like cable companies, to adapt to, but they are also missing a lot of money here, because they see this shift happening.

Southwick: The next trend to watch is the death of hotels.

Shen: OK, this one is another fake death.

Southwick: This is one that millennials get all the blame for.

Shen: Yes, absolutely. I want to look at Airbnb, here. It's this really cool start-up. Unfortunately, we cannot invest in them quite yet.

Southwick: No.

Shen: It's still a private company now worth an estimated $30 billion, so it's only behind Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR) in terms of size.

Southwick: What? Are you serious?

Shen: Yes. And you hear a lot of people talk about Airbnb disrupting the hotel industry kind of like Amazon disrupted e-commerce, or Tesla is kind of shaking things up for automakers. But that really doesn't play out in terms of the actual industry dynamics, because we are in a period right now where travel and tourism overall is enjoying really strong growth. So what you have is a tide-lifts-all-the-ships kind of situation, so Airbnb hotels, together, are just benefiting from this worldwide trend.

International tourist spending in the U.S., even with all of our crazy politics and stuff right now, lists at record levels so far in 2017. And the effect Airbnb has on the industry, if you look at a specific market, is kind of mixed. There was a study for Texas. When Airbnb entered that market, they looked at hotel prices in Dallas and Austin, and they determined the effect on hotel revenue was about 8% to 10%. That's mostly because of the heightened competition. Hotels can't raise their rates quite as much. But the effect is really on only the more budget-based accommodations.

Because you think about a typical Airbnber. Some people will go for the chalet, or the castle -- high income -- but in a lot of cases people are OK paying less for a shared-space kind of accommodation, which Airbnb is known for. And so if you are marketing yourself, or if your main clientele is business clients who are traveling to meetings, or just wealthier customers in general, you're not going to feel that pinch nearly as much.

And Marriott shares, for example, are up almost 200% in the past five years. Their revenue is growing incredibly. And I think hotel companies in general, for people who are not familiar with them, they operate differently than we think. Because Marriott actually avoids pouring in millions of dollars to build these hotels. They lend out their banner and their brand name, this established name. Put Marriott on your hotel. People know that brand. They are comfortable staying in Marriott properties. It's like a franchise. They get fees for managing the property and for using the Marriott name. So that gives them some stability and allows them to kind of grow without these huge capital spends and actually building properties, which might take four years.

So this is definitely a case where I think ultimately Airbnb and traditional hotel companies can definitely play. There's plenty of business out there.

Southwick: All right, and the final death we're going to talk about is the death of restaurants.

Shen: I think right now it's more just that we have more options than ever. And, if anything, it's just the way we get our food and our experience in the restaurant that will change. So you have Grubhub (NYSE: GRUB). It's a $4 billion company. They have 50,000 partner restaurants in, I think, over 1,100 cities. And that's just another option.

Southwick: Does Grubhub deliver? What does Grubhub do? I'm so not cool.

Brokamp: Oh, you're cool. You're all right.

Shen: Grubhub is the service that basically partners with the restaurants. So they don't make any food themselves, but they set up the platform so that if you are a mom-and-pop store and you want to start delivering because you're in an urban area, it's feasible for you. And so when somebody signs into Grubhub, they'll see your restaurant on that list within a five-mile radius or whatever it is that you set.

I used to use Seamless, which has combined with Grubhub. I used to use Seamless all the time when I was in New York...

Southwick: Chained to your desk...

Shen: Chained to my desk...

Southwick: ...because you couldn't go out.

Shen: ...every night. So when I stopped using it after I moved, I got so many emails afterward, because I went from being probably thousands of dollars a year...

Southwick: Platinum gold star member.

Shen: Exactly. And on the restaurant side, in terms of the experience and how that's changing, it's more so just, I think, how technology is being employed. I talked about this a little bit on Industry Focus last week. But what it comes down to is you see more kiosks. You see tablets at tables and you see things like mobile ordering in companies like Starbucks. I don't know how often you guys go there, but it's very popular now. Place your order. Show up. It's ready to go. You pick it up.

And again, this comes down to kind of the retail side, too, where customers and consumers, in general, just want the things that they buy exactly when and how they want it. So whether it's a delivery company like Grubhub, or it's a mobile ordering experience, or just when you show up, if you don't want to deal with anybody -- you want to just put your order in on a tablet, like a Panera Bread, for example -- you can do that.

And it not only standardizes, I think, some of the customer service experiences, but a lot of people are talking about how, in the next 20-25 years, as this technology becomes better and better and more commonplace, it will have a big impact on ultimately a lot of retail workers, how that's going to change the dynamic. They already have machines that can flip your burgers. Prepare a burger entirely. They're testing things like this on the West Coast. So it will be really interesting to see, but obviously restaurants are not going anywhere otherwise.

Southwick: I think I just had a little bit of an epiphany.

Brokamp: What's that?

Southwick: So for all of these, I've been like, well, it's also the golden age of restaurants, and I think I just realized that one person's "death of" is another person's, like, "golden age" and "awesome step forward in progress."

Shen: Yeah.

Southwick: So it's all a matter of whether you're holding on to the past or looking to embrace the future.

Shen: Absolutely.

Southwick: It is a fantastic time to be a person who eats in this city.

Shen: So many good restaurants.

Brokamp: I think everyone in this city eats.

Southwick: There's just so much to eat, and watch, and it's a good time to be alive. It's a great time to be alive.

Brokamp: Despite all the death.

Southwick: Despite all the death, it's a great time to be alive.

Southwick: We just got done talking about the consumer-goods sector, so let's see how much you guys really know about some of these big trends in consumer goods. We're going to play a little bit of "Closest Without Going Over." There's probably a Price Is Right name for this game. I'm going to give you a scenario, and ask for a number, and whoever is the closest without going over wins. Ready?

Shen: Ready.

Southwick: The first one. You'll figure this out. It's fine. Why head to the Shire when you can stay in this round, one-room adobe Airbnb in Geyserville, Calif., called the Hobbit home? The room, itself, is barely big enough to hold a double bed which, by the way, is described as "For those of you who are familiar with the concept of earthing, the mattress is on an earth pad, and so you are being grounded, as you sleep, which is very healthy."

Brokamp: Oh my gosh.

Southwick: It also boasts a living roof with grass and herbs growing to make wheatgrass juice, because, again, we're in California. So, other benefits? The bathroom is less than a minute's walk away. Also, it's within a minute's walk to a temple dedicated to Isis. The god, not the Islamic State. I just realized that. That would be horrible.

Brokamp: Not the 1970s TV show, either.

Southwick: The Egyptian god. So you're not going to find that at a Hilton. How much does it cost to stay in the Hobbit home a night? Closest without going over?

Brokamp: I wouldn't bet this personally, but I'm going to say $199.

Shen: A wheatgrass premium. I'm going to say, per night, $250.

Southwick: Oh, you guys! Good news! For the low price of $100 a night...

Brokamp: What?

Southwick: ...you can stay at the Hobbit home.

Shen: That makes me feel a little bit better.

Brokamp: You also can sleep in the grass.

Southwick: It's also a rare-animal sanctuary, so there's like ocelots...

Brokamp: In your hut?

Southwick: No, not in your hut. They live in their own place.

Brokamp: Scoot over, ocelot!

Southwick: All right, next one. Oh, both of you went over, so I guess zero. Zippy. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, probably as an excuse to make Arrested Development jokes, Amazon has disrupted the banana industry in Seattle. In 2015, Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, decided to set up a free-banana stand on the Amazon campus. They're cheap, they don't require packaging, and they're energy efficient, I guess. I don't know. There's a lot of energy in a banana.

So local businesses have had to pivot their banana strategy as a result. The banana stands are overseen by bananagers or banistas who will top off your free snack with a new daily banana fact and will probably say, at some point, "There's always money in the banana stand." That's the Arrested Development joke. So how many bananas has Amazon given away since 2015?

Brokamp: Oh my gosh.

Shen: This is limited to the Seattle market, you said?

Southwick: Yeah, they only have two. But yeah. It started with one. They've recently added a second.

Brokamp: 15,000.

Shen: I'm going to go higher. I'm going to say they've given away 100,000.

Southwick: 1.7 million.

Brokamp: What?

Shen: Should have known! It's free. You know there's going to be a ton of them.

Brokamp: Holy cow.

Southwick: Yeah. So local restaurants have said that people will come in and they'll bring their free banana with them. And so people are just bringing in bananas to restaurants rather than buy them from their local restaurants. Then they'll leave the peels behind, or leave the banana.

Brokamp: Wow. A lot of people slipping.

Southwick: Last one. Let's head to the toy aisle. One toy that has perhaps fared the best against the onslaught of tablets and apps is Legos. Founded in Denmark in 1932 in a small carpenter's shop, it is now challenging Mattel as the second largest toy manufacturer in the world.

Things weren't always clicking for Lego. According to the book Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, following a decline of sales in the '90s, a new CEO decided to get back to basics on why kids liked Legos. The breakthrough came when an 11-year-old German kid proudly showed them -- the executives and everyone -- his ratty skateboarding shoes. He had immense pride in wearing the shoes that were worn in the same spots as the pros.

Lego realized even in the world of tablets, kids still cared deeply about mastering a skill and being able to show off evidence of their work. So they returned to their core of creating even more challenging Lego sets. I just thought that was an interesting story. According to 2014 data, how many Legos are there for every person on Earth?

Brokamp: Oh, my gosh. OK, so how many people are there on the planet?

Shen: Seven billion.

Brokamp: Yeah, in the billions.

Southwick: Don't try to take a scientific approach to this!

Brokamp: All right. So if we divide this by...

Southwick: You have no idea.

Shen: My childhood collection, alone is going to really mess up the averages.

Brokamp: I'll say 100 per person. Wow, that's a lot of Legos.

Shen: I'm going to say there are 250 Legos per person.

Southwick: Bro got very close. There are 102 Legos per person.

Brokamp: And I didn't go over!

Southwick: You didn't go over.

Shen: I went way over.

Southwick: Other stats. Three million Lego elements are made every hour at their Denmark factory. That's 52,000 a minute. And since the first mini-figure -- the little person -- was made in 1978, 4 billion have since been created.

Brokamp: That is quite something.

Southwick: So you guys tied. Oh, it's always so nice when there's a tie.

Brokamp: Oh, that's nice.

Southwick: Everybody gets a trophy.

Richard Engdahl: That's because Vince didn't know about the 101 Rule for this game.

Southwick: Yeah, that's true.

Engdahl: You're supposed to just go one dollar over Bro.

Shen: Oh, of course. Price Is Right rules.

Southwick: Vince, thank you so much for joining us today!

Shen: Thank you for having me on. It was awesome.

Southwick: And if our listeners want more consumer goods, you are Tuesdays, correct?

Shen: That's correct.

Southwick: All right, everybody. And you do. You want more of Vince. He's great. Thank you for joining us. That's the show. I also want to thank Anthony, who sent a really cool postcard from Taiwan. Anthony said that he listens to all the podcasts, but we're his favorite. Aw!

Southwick: Sorry, Vince. All right, the show is edited morbidly by Rick Engdahl. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!

Alison Southwick has no position in any stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Starbucks and Tesla. Vincent Shen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Marriott International, Netflix, Nike, Starbucks, Tesla, Under Armour (A Shares), and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.