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.
Consumer spending activity retreated during the week ending Jan 17, declining 7% year on year across the all the categories we track. This retreat should not be entirely unexpected after the very strong spending activity seen the prior week fueled by stimulus checks. The best performing categories are little changed from prior weeks, with Discount Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Home Supply Stores, and Video Games continuing to show strong growth year over year. For the second week in a row, Department Stores and Restaurants were surprisingly strong. Travel, as has been the case for the last 10 months, continues to be the laggard.
Spending in the aggregate Retail segment was up 26% year over year, though down eleven percentage points from the prior week. The Home Supply category was the strongest of the group, growing 51% year over year, followed by Wholesale Clubs (+39%) and Discount Stores (+37%). The Department Store category continued to show strength as well, up 30% year over year. This is notable as Department Stores has been one of the more volatile categories in Retail during the pandemic. The back-to-back weeks of 30% plus growth may reflect some pent-up demand finally making its way back into the economy.
Consumer Spending in the Entertainment category declined 5% year over year, retreating eight percentage points from the 3% growth seen the prior week. The best performing category, as has been the case during the entirety of the pandemic, was Video Games, growing 43% year over year. The Restaurant category saw the second straight week of double digit growth, increasing 12% year over year, very surprising given the time of year and the continued high level of COVID-19 cases.
Spending in the aggregate Travel segment fell 49% year over year, two percentage points worse than the prior week. Both Air Travel (down 59%) and Lodging (down 30%) performed slightly worse than the prior week.