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 theme of the week for our FIRST report ending Jan 10 is stimulus checks. We saw a noticeably strong increase in consumer activity this week, suggesting that stimulus payments move quickly into the economy. We saw very strong increases year over year in all the retail categories, and the Restaurant category saw its strongest performance since the start of the pandemic.
This was a very strong week of spending in the Retail segment on aggregate, with spending in our panel growing 37% year over year, well up from the 19% growth seen in the prior week. The stand-out was the Discount Store category which grew 54% year over year, followed by the Home Supply segment, which grew 51% year over year. Every category in Retail was up double digits from the prior week. It’s clear from this data that the stimulus checks are being rapidly pushed back into the economy.
The aggregate spending in the Entertainment segment grew 3% year over year, up from the 4% decline seen the prior week. The most notable shift came in the Restaurant category, which grew 16% year over year, well up from the 2% increase seen in the prior week. The Video Game category remained very strong, growing 64% year over year.
The aggregate Travel segment declined 47% year over year, slightly worse than the 45% decline seen the week prior. Spending on Air Travel was largely the same from the prior week, but spending on Lodging declined 26% year over year, worse than the 17% decline the prior week. Stimulus checks do not seem to be flowing into the travel economy.