🌎 Retail holds its own

Plus: Nintendo's gotta catch ‘em all.
🌎 Retail holds its own

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

Savings at the gas pump drove US consumers to spend on retail goods... Sales of items such as electronics, books, and furniture rose in July. 

...but Target still reported a big profit drop. The retail chain’s earnings report reflected warnings of excessive inventory, but showed optimism for the second half of the year.

The Bed Bath & Beyond rally came to an abrupt halt. Shares fell 21% in post-market trading after investor Ryan Cohen signaled he’s ready to sell his stake.

Amazon accused the US government of harassing its top executives. The tech behemoth claimed requests to question founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy were too burdensome.

Apple may make products in Vietnam. The Cupertino giant is reportedly in talks to produce Apple Watches and MacBooks in the country, further distancing itself from China.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found its own pandemic response disappointing. Director Rochelle Walensky ordered an overhaul of the agency’s practices.

CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart have to pay $650 million in a Ohio opioid case. A ruling held the pharmacy chains accountable for the damage the drugs caused the communities. Opioid lawsuits have also crippled drugmaker Endo International, which filed for bankruptcy this week.

What to watch for

Two Pokemon characters riding a Pokemon-themed sleigh and wearing scarves, only they are also a giant balloon flying over a city building.
Photo: Eugene Gologursky (Getty Images)

The Pokémon World Championships begin in London today, bringing together—in person and via Twitch streaming—players of all types, be they console, mobile, or card enthusiasts. One must catch ‘em all.

The colorful creatures’ franchise is managed by The Pokémon Company, founded by Nintendo and game developers Game Freak and Creatures two years after the first video games took the world by storm in 1996. Valued at around $92 billion, the Pokémon universe includes films, all sorts of merchandise, figure stickers, trading cards, mobile games—media Nintendo can leverage with every new game release. Console and games sales remain Nintendo’s revenue cornerstone, but in a quarter affected by semiconductor supply chain disruptions, it was playing cards that provided a sole, albeit minor, area of revenue growth.

Nintendo’s last major release ahead of the all-important holiday season is a Pokémon game for the Switch, so summoning all Pokémon masters a few months beforehand is a great hype opportunity.

China’s house party

China is desperate to revive its faltering real estate sector, which for years has contributed a sizable share of national GDP growth.

Attempts thus far include:

🏡 Lowering down payments

🏡 Issuing subsidies for home purchases

🏡 Allowing for bigger loans from the state-sponsored housing fund

🏡🏡🏡🏡 Leaning on party officials to buy many fancy apartments (??)

That last one was brought up in a speech by a party secretary, who said “If you’ve bought one, buy two. If you’ve bought two, buy three. If you’ve bought three, buy four.” That sure sounds like speculation, which president Xi Jinping has expressly criticized.

“Houses are for living in, not for speculation,” has become policy and a key part of Xi’s “common prosperity” program. More likely, the Chinese government will have to step in to support the struggling property sector, repair market sentiment, and do the hard work of reconfiguring the entire real estate industry.

Is a comic retelling of Elon’s life a Musk-see?

Among the thousands of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the world’s largest arts festivals, a particular performance caught the eye of Quartz’s Amanda Shendruk: “00:01 to Elaunch: the Immersive Muskperience.”

So, obviously, Amanda volunteered for a free trip down the memory lane that is Elon Musk’s life, which includes yachting with Peter Thiel, the cave-trapped Thai kids, and sleeping Tesla drivers. She emerged onto the streets of Edinburgh, pondering questions about the comedic value of an eccentric, absurdly wealthy CEO’s life. Is it funny by default?

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Surprising discoveries

A fiery red and orange ball with some eruptions happening on it against a black background.
Not a chorizo
Photo: NASA handout (Reuters)

No, the pic above isn’t chorizo. It’s the sun releasing plasma bursts, which it did twice this week in an event that could send striking auroras as far south as New York.

A new date spot will help you weed out climate change deniers. The 18 holes at Brooklyn’s Putting Green mini-golf course are filled with themes of recycling and, you know, saving the planet.

China is blasting iodine rods into the air to make it rain. Authorities are trying to seed clouds as drinking water in rural areas dries up.

An 8-year-old chatted up an astronaut aboard the International Space System. It was apparently a blast, and we didn’t know licensed radio amateurs do this all the time?

Japan wants its people to please, please start boozing. The country’s alcohol tax revenue has slowed to a trickle.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, aurora borealis photos, and ham radios to hi@qz.com. Reader support makes Quartz available to all—become a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Susan Howson, Mary Hui, Sofia Lotto Persio, and Morgan Haefner.