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.
Consumer spending continued to contract during the week ending Dec 20, falling 21% year over year in our panel, one of the worst weeks in the last three months, and down four percentage points from prior week. The Department Store and Video Game categories drove most of the decline, while the Home Supply and Discount Store categories remained relatively strong.
The aggregate Retail segment grew 3% year over year, down from 7% growth the prior week. Both Discount Stores and Home Supply Stores maintained relative strength, growing 18% and 35% respectively. The ongoing strength in Home Supply is interesting given that weather is changing for the worse across the country, suggesting spending has moved from outside to inside. Department Stores fell sharply this week, declining 12% year over year vs. a 1% decline the prior week.
The aggregate Entertainment category declined 26% year over year, a sharp retreat from the 13% decline seen last week. The biggest driver of the decline was the Video Game category, which fell 13% year over year vs. 48% percent increase the prior week. We believe there a couple things going here – tough comparisons to the shopping week prior to Christmas last year, coupled with sustained strength in the category for most of the year which may have pulled forward demand that would have otherwise materialized around the holiday season.
The aggregate Travel segment fell 45% year over year, up from a 51% decline seen the week prior. Both Air Travel (down 51%) and Lodging (down 15%) improved over the prior week.