Over the past few weeks, we’ve been busy incorporating some new transaction data into the data panel behind the FIRST Reports. We’ve added some new cards, expanding both the number of transactions, as well as the breadth of coverage across the U.S. and within demographic segments. As such, you will notice some differences in the FIRST Reports going forward, compared to historical reports. To help minimize outlier transactions and to account for the additional number of cards, we’ve updated our data normalization methodology. While the directional trends to prior reports will be similar, you will notice a difference in the absolute % numbers when comparing historical data with this new and expanded data set. The Daily Consumer Spending Index will return soon.
The FIRST Report is a series of weekly reports that will shed light on the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the consumer economy in the US. We plan to look at three super categories of the consumer economy: Retail, Entertainment and Travel. Focusing on both sectors and individual merchants, we will provide insight into how consumers are being impacted and how they are reacting in this unprecedented time. Our intent is to help businesses, governments, and economists have a current, accurate view of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic so that they can make informed and timely decisions.
The final FIRST report of 2020, which runs from Dec 28 through the New Year’s weekend (Jan. 3), showed a slight improvement in consumer spend, declining in the aggregate 8% vs. the 11% decline seen in the week ending Dec 27. The categories showing the biggest week to week improvement were Video Games, Restaurants and Lodging, while the best absolute performers were Discount Stores, Home Supply Stores, and the aforementioned Video Games.
Spending in the aggregate Retail segment grew 19% year over year, a four-percentage point decline from the prior week. The standout category (like it had been for most of 2020) was Home Supply Stores, which grew 46%, followed by Discount Stores at 35%. Amazon closed out the year strong in our panel, with retail spending growing 52% year over year.
Spending in the aggregate Entertainment category declined 4% year over year, a twelve percentage point increase from the prior week. The big driver of the improvement was the Video Game category which grew 56% year over year, up from 26% the prior week. Somewhat surprisingly, the Restaurant category grew 2% year over year, well up from the 10% decline in the prior week.
Spending in the aggregate Travel category declined 45% year over year, up from the 49% decline the prior week. The big drivers of improvement were the Lodging and Travel Bookings categories, which improved thirteen and seven percentage respectively from the prior week, as consumers appeared to have traveled over the holidays, and are making plans for travel in 2021.