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 rebounded nicely in the week ending Dec 27, declining only 11% year over year, up from a 21% decline the previous week. We will note that most of this bump was likely a result of Christmas falling on a Friday this year, which gave last minute shoppers two extra days to find gifts vs. 2019. With that backdrop, it’s not surprising that the Retail segment saw the biggest week to week improvement. As has been the case for most of the year, the strongest absolute categories were Discount Stores, Wholesale Clubs, Video Games, and Home Supply Stores.
The aggregate Retail segment grew 23% year over year in the week ending Dec 27, up 20 percentage points from the prior week. Every category in the segment was up sharply in the week, with both Department Stores and Variety Stores up 26 percentage points from the prior week. Discount Stores, Wholesale Clubs and Home Supply Stores all grew over 30% in the week. Amazon was a big beneficiary of the two extra days of the week, growing 62% year over year, well above the 11% growth Walmart posted.
The aggregate Entertainment category declined 16% year over year, up from the 26% decline posted the prior week. The biggest driver of this improvement was the Video Game category, which improved thirty eight percentage points from the prior week, clearly helped by the extra shopping days prior to Christmas. Spending in the Restaurant category was similar to the prior week, with Fast Food outpacing the broader category.
The aggregate Travel category declined 49% year over year, down from a 45% decline the prior week. The Air Travel category declined 51%, the same as the prior week, while the Lodging category declined 30%, six percentage points worse than the prior week.