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SpendTrend report: March growth steady despite challenging comps

Atlanta -- A report released Tuesday by First Data Corp. found that, despite tough comps and a late Easter, March 2011 same-store consumer spending by credit, signature debit, PIN debit, EBT cards and checks at U.S. merchant locations showed a steady uptick.

The First Data SpendTrend analysis for the full month of March 2011 compared to March 2010 showed that overall year-over-year dollar volume growth increased 8.1% in March, compared to February’s 8.4% growth rate. Excluding sales at gasoline stations, dollar volume growth was 6.9% in March versus 7.7% in February. Gasoline prices in March were up 30% year-over-year, which limited consumer discretionary spending.

Overall average ticket growth was up 1.3% in March, the largest increase in over a year. Excluding gasoline stations, average tickets grew 0.7%. With end-of-season clearance sales over, consumers are now feeling the impact of inflation, according to the report.

SpendTrend showed that signature debit dollar volume growth rose to 10.2% in March, the largest increase since December. Direct deposit of tax refunds padded consumers’ checking accounts. Credit dollar volume growth slowed to 7.7% in March after posting a 12-month high of 9.9% in February.

“Despite difficult comparables, a later Easter holiday, and soaring gas prices, March proved to be a steady month for overall consumer spending,” said Silvio Tavares, senior VP and division manager of First Data Information and Analytics Solutions.