Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Learning about Black Friday from Google Trends

As usual, economists will be paying close attention to Black Friday shopping, trying to get a glimpse of the overall retail sales this holiday season. Expectations this year are more optimistic than what we saw the last couple of years (see chart).  Can we learn anything from Google search frequency statistics about trends for Black Friday? Here are some results.

1. Global search for Black Friday has been rising steadily since 2005.

Global trend

2. As expected, most searches originate in the US, but not all. The second on the list is Romania.

"Black Friday" relative search frequency by country

Why Romania? Starting around 2011 some retailers in Romania picked up on the US tradition and got consumers hooked on it (across the country).

"Black Friday" search in Romania
There is a similar pattern in the Bahamas (since 2009) and Jamaica (since 2007), though search frequency is no longer growing there. In Paraguay, Black Friday saw a one-time spike in 2012 and limited activity since.

3. Back in the US we see search frequency for Black Friday leveling off over the past three years - probably due to saturation.

"Black Friday" search in US

4. The most interesting piece of information is where in the US the "Black Friday" search is coming from. Here are the top rankings by state.

"Black Friday" relative search frequency by state

Note that except for Ohio, this list represents the six poorest states in the nation. While there is no direct proof, this data would suggest that poverty is an important determinant of interest in Black Friday offers/sales. Therefore the shopping volumes we see later this week may not be representative of the overall holiday sales this year.
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