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Choose Your Defective Survey, Gallup Edition
Posted By Barry Ritholtz On November 28, 2012 @ 11:45 am In Consumer Spending,Data Analysis,Markets | Comments Disabled
Black Friday weekend spending substantially below 2011
Source: Gallup 
This morning, I noted the errors that merely repeating surveys  from PR firms combined with not understanding the cognitive errors inherent in these sorts of exercises. (There is a separate issue of relying on PR industry flacks and spokesgroups who have specific agendas, but I will save that for another day).
As an example of the problem of using self-reported surveys versus actual sales data, another issue arises: Which survey do you use? Which one do you believe?
For example, Gallup did a survey that found the opposite of what NRF found — that spending actually fell — and significantly:
Daily Spending Shows Weak Black Friday Spending
Even as the nation’s retailers heavily promoted early sales on Thanksgiving Day, consumers’ self-reported spending averaged $54 over the three days ending on Thanksgiving this year, compared with $67 in 2011. Black Friday weekend also showed a substantial spending decline in 2012, to $84 from $103 a year ago . . .
Self-reported U.S. consumer spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online averaged $67 per day in the week ending Nov. 25, including Black Friday weekend. This is down from $83 a year ago and the $79 comparable for 2010, and essentially matches the 2009 weekly comparable of $69.
My advice is to investors: Don’t cherry pick the survey that confirms your preconceived notions. Instead, look to actual sales data. If you do not want to wait for Commerce or BEA to release their numbers, then use Visa/Master Card –they may be skewed online (cant pay cash) and perhaps demographically, but at least their imprecision is modest. As we saw this morning, the self-reporting surveys results  tend to be poor.
Hard retail receipts trump squishy surveys every time.
Thanksgiving Week Spending in U.S. Down From a Year Ago 
Gallup November 27, 2012
Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog
URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/11/choose-your-defective-survey-gallup-edition/
URLs in this post:
 Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/poll/158963/thanksgiving-week-spending-down-year-ago.aspx
 repeating surveys: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/11/black-fridays-media-hall-of-shame/
 self-reporting surveys results: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/did-black-friday-save-the-season-beware-the-retail-hype/2011/11/29/gIQAfNCUMO_story.html
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