Spy-in-the-Sky Data

December 13, 2010

Tuesday’s release of U.S. retail sales data could be more interesting than usual. Of course, it will give a hint about latest U.S. consumer spending patterns. But it may also give some idea of the effectiveness of a decidedly 21st century economic model — satellite data collecting.
MallThomson Reuters Proprietary Research reported in late November that remote sensing metrics of U.S. shopping mall car parks correlate
well with same-store sales data. Essentially, looking down on malls and seeing how many cars there are could give an early view of what the sales are likely to be.
The conclusion from looking at the 10 weeks prior to the Black Friday, post-Thanksgiving weekend and comparing it with 2008 and 2009,  was that car park traffic in November points to stronger same-store sales. The monthly fill rate — the percentage of car park places – peaked at 53.0 percent on Black Friday, compared with 46.6 percent a year earlier.
An index used by the Thomson Reuters team to gauge retail sales, was up 3.5 percent for November, compared with 0.5 percent a year earlier and -7.8 percent in November 2008.

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