Today, the WSJ ran this patently incorrect headline (which many TV stations dutifully (mis)reported:

Black Friday Spending Rose Slightly

Preliminary sales data showed shoppers spent $10.66 billion on Black Friday. That’s 0.5% more than last year. The figures were compiled by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 stores

That’s simply wrong. We don’t have a clue yet as to how Black Friday sales were. Not even a remotely wild guess.

What the WSJ should have written were words to the effect of:

“An analysis of mall foot traffic suggests that Black Friday saw a slight increase in shoppers. Since we did not analyze actual sales, or even credit card transaction, we actually have no idea how sales did. ShopperTrak’s guessed that sales might have been up as much as a half a percentage, but that’s just spitballing it.

Every year, various groups — NPD, Retail Federation, Shopper Track, and others — release this weak ass data that is almost never correct. And each year, the press laps it up like manna from heaven.

You call this a business model, printing bullshit press releases from trade associations and the like?

How’s that working out for ya?


November 29, 2008

Black Friday Spending Rose Slightly
WSJ, NOVEMBER 28, 2009, 4:39 P.M. ET

Category: Consumer Spending, Data Analysis, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

25 Responses to “We Don’t Know How Black Friday Sales Were Yet”

  1. Jackal says:

    Maybe they should be called headlies?

  2. alfred e says:

    @BR: Hey Dude, chill.

    It’s all about money. MSM, whoever. Makes TASS seem like an objective news source.

    Sounds like you had a nice visit to Chicago. Very cool, livable city. In the Summer. You’re not there until you do a game at Wrigley Field. From the bar outside the park.

    My son tried to lure me to the Big Apple for Thanksgiving. Why didn’t he try that when the Hamptons, where he was spending his weekends, was still warm.

    Oh I know. Chicks.

  3. KJ Foehr says:

    I’m not experienced at gauging mall traffic. But because it was BF, I was expecting it to be like shopping in China, elbowing my way through the crowds.

    But to me it seemed like a normal weekend day at Towson Town Center, Towson, MD. Nordstrom’s looked about normal for the Christmas season, but the Rack was jumpin’ as usual at this time of year. Clerks in Macy’s had time to answer questions, and they did not appear haggard or snippy from dealing with too many shoppers.

    We were also under whelmed with the sales. It seems the best deals, and maybe most of the shoppers too, were at the standalone, big box stores, which we didn’t visit.

    When we left at about 7PM there were parking spots galore in the parking garage, which is a rarity to me.

  4. CTX says:

    BR- your in NYC all the time, do you see less foot traffic? Im in the tristate area lots of people I know are hurtin’

  5. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Buy now, and you’ll pay later (but not in the traditional sense).

  6. rustum says:

    Looks like Walmart, Amazon, Newegg and Dell did better than last time. Bing cash back helped a lot. Today, most of the stores are empty. We might have a demand pull effect similar to CFC.

  7. bergsten says:

    Hey, it’s no worse than pie charts that add up to 180-odd percent.

  8. bergsten says:

    Awright. Here’s the actual press release that “justifies” the WSJ article…


    BR: Yes, that is what I sourced at the bottom of the post . . .

  9. Winston Munn says:

    Rupert Murdoch says 193% of the GOP back the 0.5% increase in Black Friday retail sales and he’s got the charts to prove it.

  10. Andy T says:

    I’m not even sure it’s really an indication of anything anyway. Last year Black Friday weekend sales were up, but overall Holiday sales for XMAS were down. People took advantage of the ‘sales.’

    In some ways, Black Friday big sales might be a contra indicator of sorts…..

  11. bergsten says:

    And, here is how they allege to obtain their data. I don’t think you want to read it on an empty stomach…

  12. chris says:

    love your style… to the point and have a good legal team.

  13. JasRas says:

    lies, lies, and statistics…

  14. Trainwreck says:

    Malls are the new museums. People go there to gawk at the thinks they don’t need or can not afford to buy. Fun outing, and very cheap. Shame Sharper Image isn’t around anymore to entertain us with their oddities: It would be interesting to learn how much money malls make from foot traffic expense (food courts, impulse chotsky buying) vs tenant rents.

  15. MikeG says:

    It’s Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ. Just be glad page 3 isn’t devoted to giant-uddered women.

  16. atulvora says:

    This same people predicted 3 percent increase last year. We know how much we got don’t we ? As barry rightly points out we should not take them seriously

  17. ShopperTrak’s mall reporting includes:

    * Same day, real-time mall reports that provides mall management with the ability to evaluate traffic patterns and re-deploy security and maintenance staff based on traffic changes throughout the day. This report is particularly valuable during high traffic periods, including holidays, special events and grand openings.

    * RTA is ShopperTrak’s web-based corporate reporting suite. Available for regional and corporate mall executives to manage multiple properties, it allows malls to be grouped according to corporate reporting requirements and compared at property levels, as well as at reporting group levels. RTA also offers tools that enable users to benchmark properties based on key metrics such as visitors per square foot, sales per visitor and security per visitor, to identify best-practices and provide corporate insight for budgeting, national leasing and marketing activities.

  18. torrie-amos says:

    on the nightly news here in dallas, they did a picture of mall parking lot on friday, packed, then did a picture on Saturday, i was agahst it looked like a tuesday morning, empty empty empty, hmmmm

  19. pat s says:

    I live in pennsylvania and Iwas watching the evenning news on Black Friday, I also noticed that the mall parking lot they were showing had quite a few empty parking spots. I Honestly can’t believe that with U3 unemployment at 10.2% , U6 unemployment at 17.2% , credit contracting at rate not seen since the Great Depression and credit card rates at plus 25%, that there are very bright people out there prognosticating a great 2009 shopping season. tis the season for wishing and hoping.

  20. ZackAttack says:

    Question is, which retailers go away without a stellar shopping season.

    M has to be near the top of the deathwatch list.

  21. Mannwich says:

    Like everything else lately, this will likely be quietly “revised down” at a later date when nobody is paying atttention.

  22. dussasr says:

    BR: I love posts like that. It’s the kind of stuff that the MSM never prints, though I suspect that there are more than a few journalists who would like to print it but can’t.

  23. wally says:

    Ya know, BR, if you’d just learn to let your feelings out…

  24. [...] noted on Saturday, we do not have much of a clue how Black Friday retail sales were yet. And even if we did, we know that it is not very predictive of how the holiday sales will [...]

  25. [...] media reported that sales were up slightly from last year; but Barry Ritzholz properly cautions that “Every year, various groups — [...]