First Data: Easter, weather boost consumer spending in April

Atlanta - Consumer year-over-year spending growth of 4.1% gained momentum in April 2014 compared to the prior month’s growth of 3.1%, driven by warmer weather as well as the Easter shift into April this year, according to First Data SpendTrend analysis. The report, which tracks same-store point-of-sale data by credit, signature debit, PIN debit, EBT, closed-loop prepaid cards and checks from nearly four million merchant locations serviced by First Data, shows transaction growth of 3.5% in April,  compared to March’s 2.7% growth.

Higher gas prices, an uptick in job creation and a lift in consumer confidence also supported the growth. Gas station spending growth of 3.3% marked the highest growth since July 2013 as gas prices eclipsed the prior year’s levels. Retail spending growth and transaction growth of 1.3% and 2.4% gained traction compared to March’s growth of -0.5% and -1.2%, as the Easter shift pushed holiday retail purchases and related foot traffic into April.

Spending growth at clothing & accessories, stores and health & personal care stores of 1.2% and 0.2%, respectively, spiked compared to the previous month’s growth of -5.0% and -2.4% as shoppers visited these merchants for candy, Easter-themed toys and spring apparel. Dollar volume growth of 3.6% at building material & supply stores slowed slightly from the previous month’s growth of 4.3% but remained healthy as higher temperatures encouraged spending on garden, home construction and outdoor items.

Average ticket growth of 0.5% was up compared to March’s growth of 0.3%, the strongest growth in the past 12 months, driven by an increase in gas and food costs. Gas station average ticket growth was 0.4% vs. -4.1% last month, the highest growth in nine months. Average ticket growth of 1.8% was seen in food & beverage stores, the highest growth in more than a year.

Looking at different methods of payment, credit card dollar volume rose 4.3%, signature debit volume rose 4.5%, PIN debit volume grew 4.1%, prepaid card volume increased 6.9%, and check volume dropped 2.7%.

“Overall spending growth was strong and gained momentum over March as the Easter shift into April and the return of warmer weather encouraged consumers to get out and shop,” said Krish Mantripragada, senior VP, information and analytics solutions, First Data. “Consumer confidence and job creation also bounced back, which put consumers in the mood to release their pent-up demand from the extended winter. We also saw debit spending growth continue to rise, due in large part to higher tax refund values and volumes through April.”

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