Yelp is using its data to reveal the biggest winner and the biggest loser in today's economy — here's what it says about what consumers want

Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty ImagesThings are looking up for salad shops.
  • Businesses across the United States got a bit of a boost in the first quarter of 2019.
  • That’s according to data that Yelp compiled based on store openings and closings and the preferences of its millions of users.
  • The Yelp Economic Average found that salad restaurants are thriving, while grocery stores are feeling the pinch.

US businesses kicked off 2019 right, according to the Yelp Economic Average.
Yelp’s data for the first quarter of the year found that, after a shaky 2018, the Yelp Economic Average jumped by eight-tenths of a point. It’s just a fraction of a point, but it’s a bounce-back from the 2.2 point decline that the average saw in the final quarter of 2018.

To compile its findings, Yelp drew on data from its 34 million monthly app users and its 75 million monthly mobile web users.

Read more: Yelp is using its data to evaluate the American economy – and it says these businesses are in a slump

The Yelp Economic Average also takes into account seasonal fluctuations, business openings and closings, and consumer demand on Yelp. Consumer demand takes into account Yelp user engagement with different businesses, like page views, searches, ratings and reviews, and check-ins.

As a benchmark, the last quarter of 2016 was assigned a score of 100. Overall, the third quarter of 2018 received a score of 100.7 from Yelp, while the fourth quarter saw a drop down to 98.5. The first quarter of 2019 was given a score of 99.3.

Here’s a look at how different kinds of businesses did throughout the country:

Winner: The economy overall

Justin Setterfield / Getty

Yelp’s data science editor Carl Bialik called the latest numbers “encouraging,” adding that the first quarter of 2019 is looking like “something of a comeback” for business overall.

“It’s a good sign for the economy and for all the millions of businesses big and small,” he said. “It shows that, on balance, more businesses are opening and closing relative to previous quarters. On balance, consumers are showing more interest in these businesses.”

Loser: Grocery stores

Grocery stores declined by 2.4 points, according to Yelp’s data. And Bialik said there’s probably a good reason that the business is in for a “struggle.”

“The groceries category is facing more competition all the time, from meal prep companies to the growing number of options for grocery delivery services,” Bialik said.

Nowadays, not all shoppers have to get out of the house, head over to the store, and pick out produce themselves.

“People have more options to just choose all those things at home and trust a service to pick the food out for them,” Bialik said.

Winner: Salad shops

Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Salad shops saw a big boost in the first quarter of 2019, jumping 6.1 points.

“There are trends towards healthier eating, greener eating, that would lead to strength in salad,” Bialik said. “More people are looking for salad places, and there are more salad places opening.”

Loser: Auto

Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

The engine of the auto business appears to be sputtering. Bialik pointed out that auto shops have been “struggling overall in the two-plus years.”

Overall, automotive services declined by 2.1 points in this quarter, with gas stations dropping by 3.6 points and auto repair outfits dropping by 1.1 points.

Winner: Junk removal and hauling


Marie Kondo may have had a hand in this particular trend. Bialik noted that the junk removal and hauling category jumped 7.2 points.

Bialik said that some of those customers are likely “clearing out their homes of things they don’t need anymore.”

“We don’t know if that’s driven by Marie Kondo or if it more shows that Marie Kondo is onto something here,” Bialik said. “We’ve seen that trend for many quarters, which includes a period for when her book was out, before the Netflix show launched.”

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