Monday, November 28, 2011

Thank you Barry Ritholtz:

He has this post over on his blog: No, Black Friday Sales Were Not Up 16% (not even 6%)

If its the Monday after Black Friday, then its national hype the fabricated data day!

Every year around this time, we get a series of loose reports coincident with Black Friday and the holiday weekend. Each year, they are wildly optimistic. And like clockwork, the media idiotically repeats these trade organizations spin like its gospel. When the data finally comes in, we learn that the early reports were pure hokum, put out by trade groups to create shopping hype. (Yes, the Media ALWAYS screws the pooch big time on this one, with the occasional exception).

Let’s start with this whopper from an utterly breathless press release from the National Retail Federation:
“U.S. retail sales during Thanksgiving weekend climbed 16 percent to a record as shoppers flocked to stores earlier and spent more, according to the National Retail Federation.

Sales totaled $52.4 billion, and the average shopper spent $398.62 during the holiday weekend, up from $365.34 a year earlier, the Washington-based trade group said in a statement today, citing a survey conducted by BIGresearch. More than a third of that — an average of $150.53 — was spent online.”
No, retail sales did not climb 16%. Surveys where people forecast their own future spending are, as we have seen repeatedly in the past, pretty much worthless.

We actually have no idea just yet as to whether, and exactly how much, sales climbed. The data simply is not in yet. The most you can accurately say is according to some foot traffic measurements, more people appeared to be in stores on Black Friday 2011 than in 2010.
There's more, including a jaundiced view of the 6.6% sales increase (that came from ShopperTrak).

I remember not too long ago there was a report from one of these outfits that retail sales were up 46% from the year ago. That was so transparently absurd that the major press didn't run with it.

I was in a discount retail store at 8:00 PM on Saturday, and it was completely empty of shoppers. That may have been an aberration, but my guess is that retail sales are up 3% from 2010 and not stellar, considering we still have 9% unemployment.


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