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.
For the latest FIRST report, we saw consumer spending in our panel retreat from the levels seen the prior week, declining 17% year over year, down from the 13% decline the week of Dec 6. As has been the theme for most of the pandemic, the strongest categories continue to be Discount Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Home Supply Stores, and Video Games.
Spending in the aggregate Retail Segment grew 7% year over year, down from 14% the prior week. While Discount Stores (up 17%), Wholesale Clubs (up 22%) and Home Supply Stores (up 36%) posted healthy growth numbers, every category was down from the prior week. Amazon maintained a healthy growth gap over Walmart, growing 40% year over year vs. a 1% decline for Walmart.
The aggregate Entertainment segment declined 13% year over year, a small improvement from the 15% decline seen the week prior. This was driven primarily by the continued rebound in Video Games, which grew 48% year over year, up seventeen percentage points from the prior week. Video Games appear to be a popular choice for the holidays. The Restaurant category has the look of a segment in the process of rolling over, with spending declining 16% year over year, as consumers retreat from dining out with Covid-19 cases on the increase.
The aggregate Travel segment declined 51% year over year, improving 1% from the week prior. The Air Travel category declined 58% year over year, and it appears this category will likely be stuck in the range of 50-60% declines until vaccines become widely available. The Lodging segment declined 36% year over year, down one point from the prior week. The trends look slightly worse here, and we would not expect it to improve as travel slows around the holidays.