We analysed more than 500,000 tweets to reveal where Christmas shoppers are having the most stressful experiences.
As the 25th December draws closer, a trip to the high street is likely to become busier and more stressful with each passing day.
Even during the pandemic, a survey by Klarna from December 2020 revealed that 79 percent of Brits left their gift shopping until the last minute and 64 percent said they were still doing their shopping in-store rather than online. These conditions can easily make for a stressful experience when buying gifts for our friends, family and colleagues.
Can Twitter tell us whether some places are more stressful than others for Christmas shopping?
At Verve Search, we often analyse live tweets and historical Twitter activity to gain insights on certain topics from around the world.
For this article we have poured through more than 500,000 tweets to find those that mention ‘Christmas shopping’ and analysed the content of those tweets through a sentiment analysis tool called TensiStength.
This academic tool, developed by Mike Thelwall at the University of Wolverhampton, measures the stress levels of tweets on a scale of -5 (very highly stressed) to 0 (neutral).
We have used this method here to indicate which major cities in the United Kingdom and United States are seeing the most stressful tweets from Christmas shoppers and which activities and keywords within tweets about Christmas shopping are most likely to occur in a stressful tweet.
The most and least stressful cities for Christmas shopping in the UK
Although the port city of Plymouth has plenty of well-known shopping options to choose from, including Drake Circus, Royal William Yard, and Plymouth Market & West End, it is here where shoppers are most likely to encounter a stressful time while buying gifts at Christmas. Nearly one third of tweets (32.5%) related to Christmas shopping from people in the city measured as stressed in our analysis.
At the opposite end of the stress scale, shoppers in the Welsh city of Swansea have the least stressful experiences while xmas gift buying, with just 15% of tweets measuring as stressed in that location.
Which London Borough is the most stressful for Christmas shopping?
The London Assembly estimates more than 500,000 people walk through Oxford Street every day. And that’s just one of the UK capital’s outlets for shoppers among the many high streets, markets and shopping centres that exist there. With so many people concentrated in popular shopping areas, increased queuing times, higher competition for coveted items and busier transport links are all likely to occur, and be potential factors in raising a shopper’s stress levels.
According to our analysis of local London tweets, the boroughs of Barnet (30.3%), Hillingdon (28.5%), and Merton (28.4%) see shoppers most likely to be stressed out according to the percentage of stressed tweets in those locations.
While being the highest ranked boroughs in London, this still represents a minority of shoppers, and could be for a number of reasons. We have highlighted some of the UK and US’s most common reasons to be stressed out about Christmas shopping further down this article.
Tower Hamlets shoppers are the least stressed at Christmas time, with just 16.7% of shoppers tweeting with stressed language about their experience. Shoppers in Kingston-upon-Thames (19.7%) and Hounslow (21%) also had some of the least stressful gift-buying experiences at the festive time of year.
If you’d like to pay a visit to any of boroughs listed here and support their many excellent local businesses at Christmas, you can usually visit the local borough’s website for a breakdown of what their local shops have to offer during the festive period and beyond.
The most and least stressful cities for Christmas shopping in the USA
In America, a trip to the shopping centres of Long Beach, California are most likely to wind up as a stressful experience for people. This is based on 32.5% of shoppers tweeting about their Christmas gift buying with levels of moderate to very high stress detected in their choices of language.
However, if you are a Long Beach local or visitor, and want to support the local stores, reviewers on Yelp rate the Long Beach Exchange, Shoreline Village, and the LBX Exchange as some of the best shopping centres.
The least stressful cities to shop in are San Antonio, Texas with 6.6% of tweeters have a stressful Christmas shopping experience, followed by San Diego (7.1%) and San Jose (8%), both situated in the state of California.
Which topics and activities are most associated with a stressful tweet by Christmas shoppers?
Some of the Christmas shopping-related tweets in our analysis mentioned specific phrases and key words related to their experience. From our analysis, we found that tweets that talked about ‘expensive gifts’ and ‘Christmas shopping’ were most likely to be stressed — equivalent to 75% of tweets — compared to other potential indicators of shopping stress, such as face masks, the weather, and money problems.
We scraped more than 500,000 tweets in the 40 most populated cities in the UK and 50 most populated cities in the USA, and every London borough over two weeks between late November and early December.
With these tweets we analysed those which mentioned ‘Christmas shopping’ (equivalent to more than 62,000 tweets) with a tool called TensiStrength. This gave us a score for each tweet on a scale of 5 (very highly stressed) to 0 (neutral). Stress levels are detected according to the type of words, phrases and punctuation used.
A stressed tweet was categorised as any tweet with a score of 2, 3, 4, or 5.
To calculate what makes Christmas shopping stressful, we analysed the final sample of Christmas shopping tweets for mentions of each key word or phrase. Each tweet that contained target key words and phrases was measured according to what percentage of them measure as stressed.
Opinions on Twitter don’t tell the full story about visiting a place in real life. While some of the locations mentioned here may coincide with a ‘stressful’ experience from Twitter users, that shouldn’t put people off shopping there (in-store or online).
- You can find out more information about where to shop with local businesses on local council websites, via: Local.gov.uk
- You can shop independent and local at: locallyuk.com
- How to support small and local businesses in your community 
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