Apple vs. Microsoft Black Friday retail numbers

AppleInsider shares Piper Jaffray’s  data on the performance of Apple retail stores vs. Microsoft retail stores on Black Friday. AppleInsider uses the headline “Apple trounces Microsoft in Black Friday retail traffic, purchases” and notes that “A comparison of Apple and Microsoft retail stores on Black Friday found that nearly 5 times as many items were purchased per hour at the Apple Store.” That’s impressive until you look at Piper Jaffray’s (PJ) data.

We can’t look at the data directly, unfortunately, as it’s in an unpublished client memo from PJ. However, the information AppleInsider shares makes me question its validity. AI notes that “Gene Munster and his team at Piper Jaffray conducted 8 hours of observations at Apple retail stores in Minneapolis last Friday.” Also, “In comparison, two hours spent outside a Microsoft Store” produced data of its own. There are a few red flags here.

  1. First, PJ’s team spent eight hours observing Apple retail stores but only two hours outside a Microsoft Store. How can you compare eight hours of data collection to two hours?
  2. Why observe multiple Apple Stores but only one Microsoft Store?
  3. Did the same group of observers gather data at all locations? If so, then they reached each store at a different time of day. Which store(s) was visited during peak shopping time, and which at a lunchtime lul or end-of-day slowdown?

How was data gathered? Looking at shopper’s bags, interviewing customers, or what? Also, AI notes that the observers were outside the Microsoft Store, but did not say where they were positioned at the Apple Stores.

The study goes on. AI notes, “Time spent at the Apple Store found that an average of 17.2 items were purchased per hour. In comparison, two hours spent outside a Microsoft Store found that 3.5 items were purchased per hour — and none of those were of the new Surface tablet. In fact, all but two of the purchases from the Microsoft store were games for its Xbox game console.”

Again, how can you compare an average number of purchases made per hour across locations if none of these variables are controlled for? Same time of day, same amount of time, same observation method, same observers, duration of observation, same data collection method. Also, was inter-observer agreement employed as a safeguard against human error? Were flagship stores visited or shopping mall locations? The former is certainly surrounded by fewer distractions than the latter.

As for the note that no customers purchased a Surface, what if sales picked up in the unobserved third hour? Or fourth? Fifth?

Finally, the study compares this year’s data to last year’s. Unless this comparison is of the same retail locations recorded at the same time of day, it’s to be questioned.

As an Apple fan, I’d like to chalk this up as a win for the home team. Unfortunately, I cannot.