Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday vs. Holiday Sales

Reports indicate that Black Friday sales increased significantly compared to last year, rising 6.6% according to Shopper Track.  What does that indicate about holiday sales and consumption for the fourth quarter of 2011?  Below is a chart showing the growth in Black Friday sales according to Shopper Track and the growth in Holiday Sales according to the National Retail Federation from 2006 to the present, both in nominal terms and adjusted for inflation using the PCE index (in parentheses).  The final column shows the growth in the consumption component of GDP for the fourth quarter:

Black Friday
Holiday Sales
Consumption Q4
+6.6% (+3.7%)
+0.3% (-1.0%)
+5.2% (+3.9%)
+0.5% (-1.0%)
-0.4% (-1.9%)
+3% (+1.3%)
-2.8% (-4.5%)
+8% (+4.5%)
+2.4% (-1.1%)
+6% (+4.1%)
+4.6% (+2.7%)

Given the above, what do Black Friday sales tell us about holiday sales and consumer spending for the fourth quarter?  Not too much.  Strong Black Friday sales in 2006 were followed by reasonably strong holiday sales while weak Black Friday sales in 2009 were followed by weak holiday sales.  However, the growth in Black Friday sales were a poor predictor of holiday sales in 2007, 2008 and 2010; providing an overly optimistic forecast in 2007-2008 and overly pessimistic in 2010.  Do strong Black Friday sales mean that holiday sales and consumer spending will be strong in 2011?  Only time will tell.