March Spending Growth Remained Positive Despite Tough Year-Over-Year Comparison Due to Easter Shift

Dollar volume growth remained positive at 2.1% but fell from last month’s growth of 2.4%. The yearly comparison was negatively impacted by the later Easter this year versus last year (April 20 this year compared to March 31 last year) which shifted holiday-related spending into April. However, the brutally cold weather since the start of the year started to loosen its grip and helped to support foot traffic. The pent-up demand from the unusually cold winter helped to mitigate the Easter shift. Higher year-over-year tax refund values and improved consumer confidence also supported the growth.

Retail spending growth and transaction growth of -0.9% and -1.8% marched lower versus February’s growth of -0.3% and -0.4% as the Easter shift pushed holiday retail purchases and related foot-traffic into April. However, spending growth at building material and supply dealers continued to gain traction, especially toward the end of the month, as the warmer weather spurred sales of home and garden supplies.

Meanwhile, credit spending growth in March slowed versus February as the Easter shift pushed holiday-related discretionary spending into April and as higher year-over-year tax refund values deposited into bank accounts spurred debit usage over credit usage.

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Rishi Chhabra is vice president of information and analytics solutions at First Data.