Here's What People Don't Understand About Crummy Black Friday Sales

Black Friday sales are down this year.

Total spending over the Thanksgiving weekend was $US50.9 billion this year, about 12% lower than last year’s $US57.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

At first glance, it would appear to be a troubling indicator of consumer health. But the historical data show that Black Friday sales actually reveal next to nothing about how well holiday sales are going to do on the whole this year.

The above chart from High Frequency Economics’ Jim O’Sullivan shows the year-over-year percentage change for the last five years. Black Friday sales have gone up and down, but holiday sales overall have grown at a pretty steady 3-5% pace.

This chart below from Capital Economics, which is a couple of years old at this point, makes the point even more clearly. There just isn’t a lot of correlation between Black Friday and holiday sales overall.

(via Matt Yglesias and Neil Irwin)

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