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Monday, November 23, 2009

Setting the Scene for Black Friday

A hot topic for the week is what to expect on "Black Friday." As analysts note, it's not just whether Americans turn out to shop on the much-hyped Friday after Thanksgiving, but how much their desire for bargains ultimately helps or hurts retailers' bottom lines.

Since Gallup tracks self-reported U.S. consumer spending on a daily basis, we'll be able to gauge right away how much U.S. shoppers hand over at the cash register and online this weekend, as well as how it compares to last year. Our consumer spending trend finds daily discretionary spending clearly down from where it was a year ago, though there have been some signs of life during recent weekends.

In the midst of extreme global economic angst last year, we did record an upturn in spending on Black Friday, though spending returned to more typical spending levels the very next day. We then recorded relatively higher spending in the week following Thanksgiving followed by a slide in late December and early January.

Americans' Christmas spending projections so far this year come in remarkably close to last year's. Lydia Saad -- our resident expert in analyzing Christmas spending forecasts -- says it's the comparison to last year that matters most for retailers. "According to historical patterns, the fact that Gallup's November 2009 spending projection is very similar to (and not lower than) those recorded in November and December 2008 should mean spending this year will not be as deflated as last year," explains Saad. "Whether that means holiday spending will be flat or actually improve compared with 2008, or only decline by a smaller percentage, is unclear. However, it is unlikely to decline by as much as occurred in 2008."

We'll be measuring all of it here at Gallup, updating our Christmas spending projections one more time in December and, of course, tracking self-reported spending daily. Our Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe analyzes consumer spending, along with economic confidence and job creation, in our Gallup Economic Weekly every Tuesday morning. To stay up-to-date on all of our spending stories, be sure to sign up for spending e-mails and RSS feeds. You can also always view and download our complete consumer spending trend via the homepage.


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