Consumer Spending by Store Type

Today’s post is a small interactive from the Wall Street Journal that allows the user to explore consumer spending not by category of spending, but rather the type of store in which they are spending, e.g. grocery retailers. Consumer spending is a fairly important measure of the US economy since so much of our economy depends upon it (I want to say roughly two-thirds, but I cannot recall exactly).

Comparing retail spending by type of store
Comparing retail spending by type of store

This piece has a few interesting things going for it. Firstly is the ability to compare and contrast three different retail channels (My screenshot compares only two). An unlimited amount would have been far too many, but three is a manageable number, especially in the various charting components used.

The tree map is interesting. I like the idea of using them, but I am not sure this is the best application. First, a tree map is fantastic for showing hierarchy. If, for example, there were sub-channels of the big retailing types, they could be nested within, well, squares or rectangles. But here the size and growth could have been compared perhaps more easily in a scatter plot. Secondly, I cannot determine the order for which the channels have been arranged. Clearly it is not by size, because the small ones are near the top. Nor is it reverse, because there are smaller ones where there should be larger ones.

Then the bar chart. An interesting idea, to be sure, of aggregating the sales per channel to see their total value. But if the goal is to compare them, would not a line chart looking at both separately not in aggregate show size and relative gains/declines against the other?

Credit for the piece goes to Dan Hill.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

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