Lessons from Sports Authority, Part 1: What Went Wrong?

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After nearly 30 years as a sports retail powerhouse, Sports Authority will soon cease to exist. Burdened with $1.1 billion in debt, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in March. After failing to secure financial assistance, Sports Authority announced in May that all 463 of its stores would be closed and liquidated by August.
 
The demise of this once-great retailer begs a simple question. What went wrong?
 
The company admitted that it had been slow to “react to changing consumer trends.” The crushing debt that Sports Authority has carried since being purchased by a hedge fund 10 years ago surely didn’t help. Various analysts and commentators have weighed in on the matter, pointing to everything from a dull shopping experience to a lack of uniqueness.
 
InfoScout decided to get the real story from the people whose experiences and perceptions matter most – actual Sports Authority customers.
 
Using receipt images of actual customer purchase data captured by our proprietary mobile apps, we analyzed more than 17,000 Sports Authority shopping occasions during a 52-week period. We also conducted a survey of more than 300 Sports Authority shoppers.
 

The problem clearly wasn’t customer service, which is an easy scapegoat when things go south. 56% of survey respondents rated Sports Authority’s customer service as very good or excellent. Only a handful said customer service was fair (8%) or poor (2%).
 
Our research revealed three primary reasons for Sports Authority’s downfall.

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You Want Me to Pay What?

When asked to identify issues or frustrations experienced while shopping at Sports Authority, nearly half (49%) of survey respondents pointed to high prices, which was more than three times higher than the next highest contributing factor. Not only were prices deemed too high, but consumers said coupons didn’t work for the most popular brands, making them virtually useless. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for retailers to push out coupons and special offers without ensuring their relevance to shoppers.
 
Price transparency on the web allows people to compare prices in a matter of seconds. Many shoppers know what they should be paying before they walk into a store. Sports Authority failed in large part because its pricing was not competitive – and its customers knew it.
 

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

30 % of respondents said they were frustrated by merchandising issues, including a lack of desired products or brands (14%), products in the right size (11%), and overall selection (5%).
 
The reality is that we live in an environment of a rapid convergence of channels, with limitless aisles that can be instantly accessed from our mobile devices. Failing to fully understand and deliver the correct merchandise is a fatal mistake for retailers.
 
The continued fragmentation of our retail environment, customer tastes and general trends makes the merchandising function more and more complex.
 

Missing with Millennials

Millennials now represent the largest segment of the U.S. population. According to customer data generated by InfoScout mobile apps, Sports Authority hadn’t done nearly enough to win over Millennials. Among loyal Sports Authority customers – those who shopped at Sports Authority at least five times per year – just 22% were Millennials. Gen Xers (66%) outnumbered Millennials three to one. This was a major miss that clearly had an impact on the company’s bottom line.
 
InfoScout data and insights clearly show us that high prices, poor selection and the failure to attract Millennials represented a three-headed monster that Sports Authority was unable to overcome. In the next post, we’ll discuss where Sports Authority’s former customers are planning to go for sporting goods and apparel and what can be done to earn their business.

How Politics Can Shape Our Grocery Shopping Behavior

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Although they wave the same American flag, Democrats and Republicans often hold clashing opinions on a seemingly infinite number of issues, such as immigration, health care reform, and global warming. Knowing someone’s political identity makes it easy to predict which side they’ll adopt in these debates. But can this information also be used to predict which products shoppers will buy at the grocery store?

 

To explore this idea, InfoScout identified over 3,000 panelists who agreed to share their data on the celebrities and public figures they follow on Facebook. Panelists who follow liberal pages like Hillary Clinton were coded as Democrats; Trump followers were coded Republican. Afterwards, we compared the purchase behavior of the Democrats and Republicans using our Household Affinity report. This tool helps us determine which brands and categories most strongly differentiate the two shopper groups.

 

Below, we summarized our findings according to which brands/categories are disproportionately bought by either Democrat and Republican households, as well as the magnitude of this effect (i.e. higher numbers represent greater political skew). Percentages were determined by calculating the relative ratios of Liberal and Conservative households purchasing a particular brand or category. The values can be interpreted as, “Liberals are 37% more likely to have purchased a Kashi product in the past year compared to Conservatives.”

 

The data suggest that progressive and traditional values extend not only to our political beliefs, but to our grocery baskets as well. Republican households tended to buy family-oriented brands (such as Malt-o-Meal and Capri Sun) as well as traditional American foods (like white bread and sugar cookies). By contrast, Democrats tended to over-index on products that are positioned as more healthful and organic, such as Kashi and kale. Democrats also skewed towards products that are more culturally diverse, like flatbread, jalapeños, and mangos.

 

Finally, we also found that the Altoid mints brand was among the top “bipartisan products”. In other words, Altoids are purchased at nearly identical rates between Democrats and Republicans. Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from this exercise is that true political cooperation may finally be achieved by focusing on what makes us similar rather than different from each other. This summer, consider reaching across the aisle and offering your fellow American a cool, refreshing mint.

Graduates Win with Aunts and Uncles


 
Graduation Season is here! The time to celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments and the beginning of a promising new stage. Parents couldn’t be prouder, Grandma is definitely going to cry, and aunts and uncles apparently get generous.

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According to one of our recent surveys, more graduation gifts are purchased for nieces and nephews than anyone else. This makes sense, especially in bigger families where people likely have have more nieces and nephews than sons or daughters. So what are they gifting?

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Graduates received mostly gift cards this year, with greeting cards and actual cash also among the popular gift-giving options. Other gifts like coffee and cars—much needed elements of adulthood—get honorable mentions. Female grads were more likely to receive flowers, while male grads were more likely to receive electronics.
 

When deciding what to gift a graduate, the number one consideration was “something that would be useful” in the next stage of their life. One curious data point also related to this decision is that uncles and aunts were more likely to ask the family and friends of the grad for gift recommendations, while mom and dad were more likely to ask the grad directly.

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Gift card purchasers are twice as likely to buy a greeting card in the same shopping trip during graduation season than during the Christmas season. The difference suggests that shoppers try to get gift and greeting cards in the same trip for graduates, while spreading the purchase of those two categories across more trips during the holiday period.

 

Another tip for all retailers out there: an overwhelming 61% of shoppers return to buy their graduation greeting cards at the same retailer where they bought their Mother’s Day card. So if you’re capturing that Mother’s Day shopper, you’re more likely to capture the graduation greeting card shopper.

 

As to which retailers people prefer for purchasing their greeting cards, the usual suspects of Walmart and Target show up on top. There is also a considerable showing from the dollar channel (Dollar Tree and Dollar General), which achieved significantly high unit sales but underperformed in dollar sales, a common trait for the channel due to its usually lower price points.

 

In summary, parents need to step up their gifting game. Spoiling uncles everywhere are going for the cash game while parents skew towards the traditionally more emotional and thoughtful greeting cards.
 
As a marketer, are you interested in knowing more about seasonal gifting in your category or other aspects of shopping behavior? Are you curious about which brands of gift cards these graduates received? Get in touch with us at contactus@infoscoutinc.com and we’ll be happy to help you out!

Procrastinators Are Not Who You Think They Are

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Different groups of people purchase in different ways. It is usual to study shoppers based on criteria like geo-location, demographics, or previously purchased products. But how about looking at their purchase behavior based on how timely they are?

 

Having a purchase panel that you can survey on-the-fly makes shopper group creation a breeze, enabling you to combine claimed data from surveys with behavioral data from receipts. In this particular case, we identified shopper groups of “early birds” and “procrastinators” by asking if they had or had not filed taxes by April 1st.

 

Procrastination is often associated with young millennials. A quick attempt at a google search would show that much.
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To our surprise, nothing could be farther from the truth. Who were the procrastinators? The profile of the procrastinator turned out to be mostly Gen-Xers (50.4%), at the extreme ends of the income spectrum (below $25k and above $125k) with no children. One finding that did align with the laid-back stereotype of the region, is that people on the West coast (47.4%) procrastinate more than those in other regions.

 

What do their receipts tell us about their purchase behavior? Procrastinators likely often find themselves in situations where they need to pick up something quickly from a Drug Store or Convenience Store. Meanwhile, early birds seem to plan their purchases better and tend to buy more at the mass merchandiser channel.

 

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In a curious case of routine dragging, the procrastinators were also more likely to make their shopping trips after 5pm while the early birds preferred to get their shopping done before 3pm.

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When it comes to the brands they purchase, procrastinators may not be buying the brands you might normally associate with slackers. Instead, they showed higher affinities to health-conscious brands like Kind and Nature’s Bounty. Early birds were more likely to purchase brands like Nutella, Totinos, and Funyuns, which, although delicious, are not necessarily associated with a healthy diet.

 

Another curious behavior we noticed while looking across categories was that procrastinators drag their feet when buying Christmas cards—making this purchase the same week of December 25th, while early birds were already done two weeks before.

 

When looking at the household category, it seems like the procrastinators make an effort to turn a new leaf with a New Year’s resolution to clean the house, but they revert to their old habits fairly quickly as they begin spring cleaning later than the early birds.
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Some takeaways for marketing execution are to plan in-store events and promotions earlier in the day to appeal to early birds and later in the day to reach procrastinators. The latter are often late to the game around holidays and other important retail events, with the only exception being Valentine’s Day. Capturing early-week holiday promotions is important, but there is a secondary opportunity when this type of shopper finally makes it to the store.

 

In summary, make sure to re-examine how you perceive generations overall and give extra thought as to how they interact with your brands and categories.

 

As a marketer, are you interested in the “Why” behind some of the behaviors discussed here? Are you curious about which brands in your categories are favored by procrastinators or early birds? Get in touch with us at contactus@infoscoutinc.com and we’ll be happy to help you out!

tenthavenue’s S2B launches BuyPoint in partnership with InfoScout

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Originally published on tenthavenue.

 

(NEW YORK, NY – April 13, 2016) – tenthavenue’s shopper agency S2B announced today that it has launched “BuyPoint”, a new shopper content and media tool that fuses purchase data with in-store planning intelligence to enable marketers to optimize in-store content and placements towards improved sales and ROI.

 

The new tool, powered by purchase panel and survey data from consumer insights company InfoScout, enables marketers to develop optimal in-store media plans informed by a combination of shopper profiles, purchase behavior, surveys and store profiles.  The purchase panel data combined with actual shopper surveys is used to clarify the ‘who, how and why’ people are buying today. BuyPoint then overlays the shopper purchase data with store profile and historical performance data from S2B’s proprietary Retail Destination Directory to identify the most effective media placements at the store level, delivering sales and ROI optimization into the hands of shopper marketers quicker than ever before.

 

Ann McGrath, Group Director, S2B said:  “BuyPoint is designed to bring to market greater accountability, insight into the effectiveness of in-store messaging and media and, most importantly, improved performance.”

 

“As the largest agency buyer of third party in-store media in the United States today”, said Michael Lieberman, COO of tenthavenue North America, “S2B’s aim is to model the highest return on in-store investment for our clients and develop a robust audience intelligence that will continue to feed into messaging and placement strategy.”

 

Jared Schrieber, CEO of InfoScout said, “Brands deserve more from agencies than impressions, clicks and aggregate sales metrics as proxy measures of ROI from their marketing spend. InfoScout is proud to be a part of tenthavenue’s industry leading efforts to provide a true measure of ROI from their execution by observing changes in purchase behavior among the specific shoppers who were exposed versus those left unexposed.”

Two client launches are currently underway.

 

About S2B:

S2B (Shopper2Buyer) is dedicated to planning and buying communications to most effectively reach shoppers in the right environments along their omnichannel journeys.

S2B leverages rich shopping data to drive proprietary insights and inform the marketing plan that encompasses all relevant media points along the shopper journey from “pre-trip” (out of store) to trip (in-store/eCommerce) and post-trip (advocacy and repeat), ultimately closing the sale.

Using proprietary technology such as S2B’s Retail Destination Directory that informs store-level planning across multiple classes of trade, S2B delivers plans for national, market- and retailer-specific requests based on thorough consideration of in-store media placement and opportunities within each individual location.

 

About InfoScout:

InfoScout helps brands and retailers grow via next generation consumer insights derived from America’s largest purchase panel. Through its portfolio of proprietary mobile apps, InfoScout captures nearly 1 out of every 500 shopping trips made by a representative sample of American shoppers. These shoppers also complete in-the-moment surveys to more fully explain the ‘why behind the buy.’ With more than 100 million brick-and-mortar and ecommerce receipts captured annually, InfoScout has rapidly become a primary source of real-time, omnichannel behavioral insights for industry leaders such as P&G, Unilever, PepsiCo, Intel, and Electronic Arts.

Spring Cleaning: Scrubbing Deeper with Household Products Purchase Data

Spring Cleaning is a time when consumers use their daily household cleaning products to scrub deeper than just the surface. This holds true for panel data as well; sometimes the most impactful insights are hidden from plain view, waiting to be discovered with a little extra elbow grease. For example, take a look at some top-line metrics for common products in the household category.

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This view gives us a quick bird’s-eye view of how each subcategory is performing. For example, bath tissue has a relatively high basket size of about $95, suggesting that it’s purchased on large stock-up grocery trips. Bath tissue also has the highest purchase frequency, meaning that the category is purchased (by each household) an average of 7 times per 52 week period.
 
Interestingly, dish detergent and fabric softener have almost identical purchase frequencies of 4.0 and 4.1 (respectively). However, these numbers are just averages. They don’t tell us anything about the underlying distribution. Datasets with similar means but different distributions can be problematic; imagine if we treated {0, 5, 10} the same as {4, 5, 6}. An insights professional looking to understand these categories more thoroughly will want to scrub a little deeper past the surface.
 
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A shopper histogram is the perfect complement to shopper metrics because it takes the averaged metrics and shows you the full distribution of the data. The graph above paints a bigger picture than the averages alone for these two categories. Here, we see the underlying distribution for each category’s purchase frequency. Fabric softener is a divisive category; shoppers either buy it all the time (8+ times per year), or very rarely (just once per year). By contrast, dish detergent has a steadier distribution; more shoppers fall near the mean (buying 4 times per year).

 

Why is this important? As a marketing manager, it’s easy to make assumptions based on data averages. Shopper metrics alone would lead you to believe that two disparate categories have identical purchase cycles. In reality, fabric softener has two shopper segments of ‘extremists,’whereas dish detergent has fewer ‘extremists’ and a greater number of average, once-per-quarter shoppers. It’s easy to miss these crucial segments by glancing at a bird’s-eye view of the data.
 
Want to ‘scrub’ even deeper? Are you curious about which brands in the household category are favored by your shoppers? Get in touch with us at contactus@infoscoutinc.com and we’ll be happy to help you out!.

How New Year’s Resolutions Impact Shopping Behavior

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Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to commit to a healthier lifestyle in 2016? If so, you’re certainly not alone! Here at InfoScout, we thought it would be interesting to learn more about these resolutions and how they will impact shopping behavior early in the year. It’s hard to change shoppers’ habits, but New Year’s Resolutions create a tremendous opportunity for brands and retailers alike.

 

The following is a snapshot of a deeper analysis recently presented to InfoScout clients as part of our Insights in Action webinar series available here.

 

What's Your New Years Resolution

 

Our study started by surveying InfoScout panelists to see whether or not they made any resolutions at all. Two-thirds of our respondents made a resolution of some type and among all resolutions, getting more exercise, eating healthier, and losing weight are the most popular goals for 2016.

 

Perhaps the reason so few resolutions seem to come to fruition is because obstacles to success abound (see chart below). In fact, 95% of the eat healthier/lose weight crowd are worried about being successful. Developing tools and coping mechanisms to overcome old habits, time and budget constraints are key to meeting their goals. In addition, many Americans believe that one of the keys to achieving their healthy eating and weight loss goals is a variety of healthy (and tasty) food choices so boredom doesn’t become a factor. If you support a food brand or a grocery merchant, take a moment to think about how you can help consumers overcome these obstacles with the right shopper marketing and merchandising plan. How can you speak to these desires and fears while they’re still relevant?

 

Those who want to live a healthier lifestyle in 2016 overwhelmingly plan to buy healthier foods (74%) and cook more at home (57%).  Working in partnership with someone to keep them accountable is also in the plan for nearly 40% of respondents. Six percent of respondents, especially the most committed, plan to work with a dietitian or a nutritionist.

 

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According to our survey, if consumers resolving to eat healthier actually keep their resolutions, we’re likely to see more fresh produce, fish, and lean meats in their grocery baskets this year, in addition to yogurt, brown rice, and many other healthier foods. The most committed health seekers also plan to ramp up purchases of flaxseeds, chia seeds and coconut oil.

 

Taking a look at the actual purchase behavior of these respondents so far this new year, we can see that their purchases of fresh fruits & vegetables are indeed up- increasing their share of grocery spend by 11.5% from December to January. Fish is already capturing a whopping 35% greater share of stomach month-over-month. Clearly, these consumers are putting their money where their mouth is.

 

One way to capitalize on these changing behaviors is through cross-promotions – especially those that include the types of healthy foods listed above.  InfoScout’s Cross-Promotion playbook makes it easy for brands and retailers to identify the cross-promotion opportunities most likely to be a hit with your targeted shoppers while driving truly incremental sales.  If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch this free webinar recording that uses Weight Watchers and yogurt as examples.  You’ll be surprised to see just how easy it is to do for your own brands and categories!

 

About the data
The insights from this post were derived from InfoScout’s “Insights in Action” webinar series. The underlying data include a combination of 1,000 survey responses and purchase behavior reports available through our InfoScout Insights™ platform which analyzes the shopping activity of more than 300,000 Americans who report more than 275,000 shopping trips every day through our Receipt Hog, Shoparoo, and Receipt Lottery apps.

America Loves ‘Click and Collect’

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Recently, our friends over at CNBC asked us to take a closer look into services that allow people to shop online and then pick up the items in-store—also known as “Click and Collect.” Through a survey to more than 1,000 American shoppers, InfoScout determined that of the 34.6% of Americans who have tried Click and Collect, half of them (49%) tried it for the first time in 2015. As CNBC concluded, “Like it or not, ‘click and collect’ is here to stay“.

 

Although two-thirds of America have yet to try this type of service, its staying power is clear because those who use it, love it. Fifty-four percent of shoppers who have used this service, used it during the 2015 holiday season. Along the same lines, 95% of shoppers who used this service during their 2015 holiday shopping indicated that they were very likely to use it again for their 2016 holiday shopping (vs. only 1.6% who said they would be unlikely to do so again).

 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the overall satisfaction ratings on the service are strong. Jaron Waldman, CEO of San Francisco based Curbside, a click and collect app, tells us that across his clients (which include the likes of Target, Best Buy, CVS and Sephora) “56% of people who try it come back and order again”. He also pointed out that many of the shoppers on the Curbside app are also members of Amazon Prime, but they “like the flexibility of picking it up when and where they want, in under an hour”.

When asked about the reasons why they chose Click and Collect for their purchase, one word really stood out among our survey respondents open-ended answers: convenience.

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“Cheaper than shipping it to my house” – Ann from Cincinnati

“Easier and then I was guaranteed to get the item I wanted without any hassle” – Jessica from Tulsa

“Faster than having it shipped to the house but still able to get the online deals.” – Chris from Seattle

 

Even though love is in the air, the Click and Collect trend is still far away from completely replacing regular grocery shopping trips. More than half of all respondents who used Click and Collect throughout 2015 reported only using it between two and five times when, on average, they do 72 fill-up or stock-up trips over the course of a year.

 

You may be asking yourself: Who are the retailers capitalizing on the trend? Topping the list with a commanding lead was Walmart (where 69% of respondents indicated they’ve used Click and Collect service, followed by Target (34%), Kohl’s (17%), and JC Penney (15%).

 

About the Data:
For this study, we surveyed 1,000 of our panelists who have used a “click and collect” service. InfoScout tracks the purchases of more than 350,000 Americans who report more than 300,000 shopping trips every day through our Receipt Hog, Shoparoo, and Receipt Lottery apps.

Who Keeps Buying iPads? And Why?

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Since its release in 2010, the iPad has remained one of Black Friday’s top-selling items, year after year. And this year was no exception. But while the demographics of who buys iPads (disproportionately Caucasian & Asian, mid-to-high-income families with kids) haven’t changed much over the years, it appears that the reasons have. Here’s what we discovered when we surveyed shoppers who made an iPad purchase on Black Friday 2015.

Not surprisingly, most of this year’s iPad shoppers are the ones who wait a little longer to adopt new technology.

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Sixty-eight percent of iPads purchased on Black Friday were purchased as gifts. 47% of them, as a gift for someone within the same household.

 

 

 

More than half of iPad shoppers (57%) already own other non-iPad tablets. This suggests that tablets are being used more BlackFriday2015_TabletOwnership@2x (1)exclusively by different members of the household and might also be used for different functions (e.g., news and browsing versus games and streaming videos).

Or, perhaps having an additional iPad in the home will give mom and dad more quiet time while the iPad plays babysitter?

 

 
About the Data
These insights were powered by InfoScout’s ability to trigger real-time surveys based on observed shopping behavior. The data in this article was sourced from a survey completed by 255 of our 300,000 active panelists, triggered on Saturday, 11/28/2015 to a random subset of shoppers who made iPad purchases on Black Friday.

InfoScout’s 2015 Gift Guide: What to get for Mom, Dad & the Kids

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Don’t you love that squeal of joy when your loved one unwraps the ultimate gift on their wish list? Then make sure you buy the must-have items of the season! Every year manufacturers and retailers try to predict the top sellers for each holiday in an effort to have what people want. But what are parents and spouses actually purchasing this holiday season?

At InfoScout, we crunched data from over one-million holiday shopping trips to bring you a few ideas on what to get your family members this Christmas.

For the kids, we looked at toy sales (both in-store and online) so far this season. As expected we see Hot Wheels and Nerf guns at the top of the list, with Disney items rounding out the mix. But who would have predicted the surge in board game sales–as in, family time? It’s a return to the Gen-Xer’s childhood, with board games a’plenty, including Chutes and Ladders, Connect 4, and Trouble (with a Despicable Me twist!) all making it onto the hottest toys purchased list. And let’s not forget PLAY-DOH! Just don’t eat it, kids.

For Mom, we looked at individual-level insights into what the Dads (adult males with children living at home) have been
purchasing in the past 4 weeks. At the most affordable price point, we can see that Adele’s new album will stuff more than a few stockings. In the mid-tier, Dad’s laziness shows a little with Amazon gift cards being the most common gift (not that Mom is going to complain about that). At a price-point of $250 and above we found HP’s 15-inch laptop which has proven to be a hit since Black Friday.

 

For Dad, we reversed the genders of the previous table, and looked at what females with children at home have been purchasing in the last 4 weeks. At the most affordable price point, we find a Nascar-themed collector’s pocket knife, followed by more gift cards, but this time to home improvement store Home Depot (a clear signal to start checking items off the “Honey-Do” list). At the most expensive price point, we found the PS4, the hottest console this past Black Friday, and one that will surely make Dads (and kids) all around the US, very happy.

 

About the Data
More than 300,000 Americans snap pictures of their everyday shopping receipts via InfoScout’s mobile apps: Shoparoo, Receipt Hog and Receipt Lottery. More than 1,000,000 receipts reported from shopping trips in the last 4 weeks were analyzed to support the insights above. For further information, please contact press@infoscoutinc.com.