Economy

Blizzard-Hit Regions See Consumer Spending Plummet

by Lydia Saad

Pre-Christmas spending surge mostly maintained in South and West

PRINCETON, NJ -- In the first two days of the day-after-Christmas blizzard that affected more than 20 states east of the Missouri River, consumers' average daily spending fell by nearly 50% in the East and by 55% in the Midwest, compared with their average spending over the four days prior to Christmas. By contrast, spending in the South and West fell by no more than 11% over the same time period.

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In the Eastern region of the U.S., consumers' average daily spending from Sunday, Dec. 19 through Wednesday, Dec. 22 was $89. This fell to $48 on the Sunday and Monday following Christmas, Dec. 26-27, including the day of and the day after the blizzard.

Over the same period, average daily spending in the Midwest fell from $100 to $45. In the West it fell from $107 to $95, while in the South, it was statistically unchanged at $104 prior to Christmas vs. $99 in the first two days after the holiday.

These figures are based on Americans' self-reports of the total amount they spent the prior day in stores, restaurants, and online, not including homes, vehicles, or their normal monthly bills.

While consumer spending is expected to be lower after Christmas compared with the heavy shopping week leading up to it, retailers were reportedly counting on Americans to head back to the malls on Sunday to cash in gift certificates and take advantage of post-Christmas sales. Consumers may have fulfilled these hopes in the South and West, where self-reported spending was down slightly, but not in the East and West, where many residents were lucky to get out of their driveways.

Despite strong post-Christmas spending in much of the country, depressed spending in the East and Midwest helped drive down the overall consumer daily spending average to $59 in recent days.

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Bottom Line

The blizzard that struck the Midwest and East Coast on Dec. 26 diverted many of those residents from picking up where they left off at the malls the week prior. Average daily spending in those regions fell by roughly 50%, compared with minor dips elsewhere.

Gallup Daily tracking found Americans' self-reported spending rising higher in the week prior to Christmas than in either of the first two weeks of December. That spending surge may have raised retailers' hopes that the pattern would continue between Christmas and New Year's. Now that most roads are passable again, it will be important to monitor Gallup Daily tracking of consumer spending over the next week to see if the formerly blizzard-bound consumers return to the stores.

Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com 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.

View our economic release schedule.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey Dec. 26-27, 2010, with a random sample of 933 adults, aged 18 and older, and interviews conducted Dec. 20-23 with a random sample of 1,963 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points for the Dec. 26-27 results, and ±3 percentage points for the Dec. 20-23 results.

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 http://www.gallup.com/.

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