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Consumer Perceptions Suggest a Better Black Friday Weekend

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

Confidence, jobs, spending perceptions suggest higher spending this holiday weekend than last

PRINCETON, NJ -- Self-reported daily consumer spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online averaged $66 per day in the week ending Nov. 21 -- not much different than the $69 of the same week in 2009 -- but below the $74 comparable of the same week in 2008.

Consumer Spending by Week, 2008-2010

Although the outlook for Black Friday weekend is better than it was a year ago, at first glance, recent spending trends as well as some consumer attitudes are not particularly encouraging for Black Friday and Christmas holiday sales:

  • Nine in 10 consumers say they continue to watch their spending closely -- essentially unchanged from the 89% of the same week in 2009.
  • Seventy percent say they are cutting back on their weekly spending -- consistent with the 69% of 2009.
  • Nineteen percent of Americans worry that they spent too much money "yesterday" -- also the same as in 2009.

However, despite the year-over-year comparables in actual consumer spending, there are some positives in consumer spending attitudes this month:

  • Half (51%) of Americans say they feel able right now to make a major purchase, such as a car, appliance, or furniture -- up from 46% in the same week of 2009.
  • About 6 in 10 (58%) say they feel pretty good about the amount of money they have to spend these days -- up from 54% in 2009.
  • Americans say they will spend an average of $714 on Christmas gifts this year -- up sharply from the $638 they estimated in November 2009.

Further, Gallup data also show the economic backdrop for consumer spending is improving:

  • During the week ending Nov. 21, 41% of Americans rated current economic perceptions "poor," compared with 48% during the same week in 2009
  • Gallup's U.S. unemployment rate, without seasonal adjustment, fell to 9.2% in mid-November
  • Gallup's Job Creation Index stands at +12 for the same week, with 30% of employees reporting their companies are hiring and 18% saying they are letting people go -- much better than the +1 of 2009, when 24% of employers were hiring and 23% firing, and consistent with the most recent drop in unemployment claims to 407,000 -- the lowest level since July 2008.


Gallup modeling suggests that an improving jobs picture should lead to increased consumer spending. In theory, so should improved consumer confidence. Further, it can't hurt to have more Americans feeling better about not only the money they have to spend but also their ability to make a major purchase. However, the extent to which these positive attitudes translate into immediate spending is hard to estimate.

Regardless, Gallup's behavioral economic data support the early November finding that sales are going to be better this holiday season than in 2009. Add in the special sales promotions, retailers' special hours, and consumers' potential concerns that lean inventories mean they need to shop early for the best selection, and it seems likely that this Black Friday weekend may be better than that of 2009.

Gallup will report on daily spending trends from the weekend early next week. reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence and Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Read more about Gallup's economic measures.

Survey Methods

Results for the average daily spending, economic confidence, and jobs questions question are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Nov. 15-21, 2010, with random samples of approximately 3,000 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling. For these results, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Other results are based on total weekly samples averaging 700 to 800 national adults. For these results, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit


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