The Economic Case for Ignoring Black Friday

The Superbowl of shopping actually doesn't tell us much about the state of consumers.
Reuters

There's nothing more American than stampeding stores on Black Friday to save some money on your holiday shopping. But it's meaningless.

Not meaningless in an existentialist way, though that too. Rather, meaningless as an economic indicator. See, Black Friday sales tell us nothing about overall holiday sales—and hence the state of consumers. You can see that in the chart below from Capital Economics (via Neil Irwin). It compares the change in sales during Thanksgiving week with the change in total sales from November to January. There's not much of a relationship, and if anything, there's a slightly negative correlation. In other words, better Black Fridays are associated with worse holiday sales seasons.

So don't think of the crowds as a referendum on the economy. Some people like to shop on Black Friday, and some people don't, and that's pretty much all there is to say about it. Just think of them as your competition for the best deals.

Not that I need to say that.

Presented by

Matthew O'Brien

Matthew O'Brien is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In