In spite of the well-publicized economic uncertainties such as tax changes and sequester outcomes, same-store consumer spending increased in March, according to First Data’s SpendTrend. Many factors were potentially at work:
Year-over-year dollar volume growth increased 6.0% in March, up from February’s 4.6% growth, as the earlier Easter holiday and lower gas prices provided an extra boost to spending during the month. In addition, tax refunds that were delayed earlier in the year have caught up and may have spurred consumer spending in March. March 2013 performance is particularly robust given a tough comparable to March 2012, when dollar volume growth rose 8.7% due to abnormally mild weather last year.
Retail dollar volume growth was 3.9% year-over-year in March, a healthy increase from February’s 2.5% growth, as consumers took advantage of spring promotions and winter clearance markdowns and Easter- and Passover–related spending. General merchandise stores (including value retail) saw dollar volume growth of 5.0% in March, a six-month high. Conversely, dollar volume growth at building material, garden equipment and supply dealers slowed to 3.1% in March, very likely impacted by the much colder and snowier weather across much of the country compared with the same period last year.
Consistent with a consumer-driven spending push, average ticket growth was up 1.8% overall, and 3.4% at retailers. Also, credit card volumes increased more than debit, indicating some potentially increased willingness to buy on credit. Interestingly, closed loop prepaid was up the most of the reported tender types, suggesting consumers were still working through their post-holiday gift card balances, and in some cases driving incremental purchases.
March Dollar Volume Growth CHANGE
Signature Debit +5.1%
PIN Debit +3.3%
Closed-Loop Prepaid +10.8%
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