Holiday Shopping Update

From now until the New Year signals the close of the holiday season, Texifter analysts will focus DiscoverText’s tools on holiday shoppers. We will take a close look at their behavior and sentiment as they hit the stores during the “most wonderful time of the year.” With November now a week old – and Christmas just 7 weeks away – it’s a great time to see if shoppers have begun to loosen their wallets.

Texifter analysts used the Twitter API in the first week of November to capture nearly 35,000 Tweets mentioning “Christmas Shopping,” ingested nearly 200,000 Tweets into DiscoverText using the rule “mall,” and ingested nearly 100,000 Tweets using the names of popular Christmas retailers, such as Saks, Nordstrom, and Macy’s. As examples of holiday season shopping indicators, these are only the beginning of archives we will use to continually harvest data throughout the holiday season.

Taking a random sample of 5,000 Tweets, we created a dataset as the base for a custom classifier built around holiday shopping comments. Over the full shopping season we will continuously refine the classifier using our unique learning engine. It will help us monitor the pace at which people are entering and exiting the Christmas Shopping season.

Using the categories of “Not Started”, “In Progress,” and “Finished,” the numbers indicate most people might still be recovering from a Halloween Hangover. Only 34% have started their Christmas shopping and a mere 7% have finished. With 7 weeks to go and Black Friday sales still to come, we will see how fast this minority grows. It’s possible consumers in the spending powerhouses of the New York and Boston regions were homebound due to power outages from a freak October snowstorm putting a damper on the “In Progress” number. However on November 1st, a a traditional phone survey by national consumer group Valpak found 29% of people had already started Christmas shopping. Given timing differences between this survey and our less costly analysis of tweets, the results are close.  Over the past week, other surveys have found consumers starting a bit late.  The majority of Tweeting shoppers have not started their shopping. Although they very often Tweeted about the need to start, they lacked an urgency to do so. This might be a signal of a December rush.

To get a better handle on consumer sentiment, we studied the same sample of 5,000 tweets. Given what we found, it’s hard to believe only 34% have begun shopping. As part of our sentiment classifying process, we coded any Tweet as Positive if it mentioned a successful shopping experience. Neutral Tweets simply mentioned the need to shop or that someone had made a shopping trip but didn’t provide any positive or negative description. Negative Tweets mentioned a barrier preventing a person from shopping, such as money, or weather.

The classifier revealed that sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of comments being quite positive. Many people were excited by the upcoming Holiday season and the prospect of heading out to begin their shopping. This positive outlook was accompanied by the oft repeated mention of “savings,” and the ”need to save” for Christmas. While this was not coded for, it might be an indication consumers will temper their enthusiasm with some degree of concern for cost. While people are excited about the season, they may be holding tight to their wallets as they shop for gifts this year.

Next week, we will dive into the details and start digging into whether consumers’ Tweets about individual retailers may affect the holiday season.

About Joseph Delfino

Joseph Delfino is responsible for business development at Texifter. He has been working with DiscoverText since January of 2011 when he started testing the DiscoverText user interface in the QDAP Lab. His favorite retired DiscoverText tool is the Splicer. Joe is a big film fan, with his favorites being foreign films, documentaries, and anything set in a future dystopian landscape. You can reach Joe on Twitter @_delfino_ and through email at
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