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March 28, 2010

CMI's explanation of "survivor bias".
How bad retail numbers get spun as positives

The whole CMI site and charts are an interesting, albeit frightening, read. The bit on numbers cooking of retail figures is quite revealing.

And by March 6th the Retail Index (chart on the right below) had returned to levels indicative of a greater than 6% year-over-year decrease in consumer demand. This number is substantially different from the self reported sales figures from the retail industry, which suffer from 'survivor bias' as a consequence of focusing on 'same store sales in stores open at least a year'. The closing of select stores or entire chains are simply unreported, while the traffic shifted to remaining stores generates a positive spin. Our substantially more negative numbers, however, have been matching sales tax collections, which have no survivor bias. We believe our internet based sample is a fair representation of the entire 'demand' side of the economy, and the sales tax numbers seem to confirm that conclusion...
Sales tax figures are indeed a far more reliable proxy for genuine retail activity than self reported same-store figures.

If CMI's charts are even only somewhat accurate, the "double dip" is already here and will be reflected in undeniable ways over the next couple of months. Prepare to embrace the suck. The Federal Reserve and government quiver of economic weapons is empty, tapped out, sucking wind, pining for the fjords.

Probably the only thing keeping this contraction in retail spending from being more dramatic is the increase in the price of gasoline (we're nearing $1 increase during the past year)






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