First Data SpendTrend Reports Highlight Impact of Hurricanes Harvey & Irma on Retail Spending

First Data found that both hurricanes had similar impacts on consumer trends 

NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017– In the aftermath of the hurricanes that have wreaked havoc through the United States, millions of people have begun the arduous rebuilding process. While the recovery continues in earnest, the economic impact to the region is also coming into focus. Today First Data (NYSE: FDC), a global leader in commerce-enabling technology, released two reports analyzing the magnitude of the impact that Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma had on consumer spending.

For Hurricane Harvey, First Data found that retail spending plummeted 58.7% week-over-week (43.7% year-over-year) in Houston and its surrounding areas at the peak of the hurricane. Across the state of Florida, spending dropped 55.7% week-over-week (or 39.1% year-over-year) at the apex of Hurricane Irma.

“With First Data’s unparalleled data sets, we are able to provide unique insight to help businesses and government agencies understand the ultimate impact of these natural disasters,” said Rishi Chhabra, Vice President, Information & Analytics, First Data. “Our data shows that consumer spending in both impacted regions followed a similar trajectory. Spending increased the week before the hurricanes, with people stocking up on key items like gasoline and groceries, and dropped significantly during the storm. After the worst of the hurricanes, consumer spending rebounded as people began to rebuild.”

Like Brick-and-Mortar, eCommerce Retail Sales Took a Hit

Unsurprisingly, brick-and-mortar stores saw a significant drop in sales. The same was true for eCommerce. In Houston during the week of Hurricane Harvey, eCommerce spending dropped an incredible 41.4%. By comparison, total U.S. eCommerce business was down only 4.3% during the same week. Post-storm, Houston eCommerce sales continued to drag while national eCommerce sales rebounded.

The same was true for Hurricane Irma. In Miami, eCommerce activity started dropping the week before Irma, declining significantly by 39.3% during the week of the hurricane (U.S. eCommerce spending was up 3.9%). After the hurricane, Miami eCommerce sales increased 0.6%, dragging behind national eCommerce spending which was up 12.9%.

Data Revealed Path of Evacuees from Impacted Areas

Across Houston, there was an uptick of hotel sales starting August 31 as consumers rushed to book hotel rooms. Average ticket sizes for hotels were as high as $367 and on average about $50 more than they were pre-storm. Smaller towns like McAllen, Killeen, Waco, and Laredo, saw significant increases in hotel spending during the hurricane, indicating that people sought refuge in these towns during the storm.

Spending on hotels in Florida followed a similar pattern. Tallahassee, in particular, saw a significant increase of 289.7% in people spending money on hotels. The data also showed that Orlando was a popular destination for Miami evacuees. In the week leading up to Hurricane Irma, Orlando saw a 6.4% spending increase in Miami-based credit and debit cards. Cardholders from Tampa were more dispersed across Florida, with the number one destination being Tallahassee.

During the Hurricanes, Gasoline Sales Dropped While Prices Rose

During Hurricane Harvey, gasoline sales, which had increased 13.4% the week before, dropped 15.4% during the hurricane. Gasoline stations in Florida also saw a decline of 28% in spending during the week of Hurricane Irma.

When it came to prices, however, both impacted areas saw prices climb during the hurricanes. In Houston, the price per gallon of gas shot up $0.25-$0.50 during the week of Hurricane Harvey. In Florida, average ticket prices at gasoline stations soared an average of 16.4%, with Port St. Lucie seeing the biggest increase of 24.8%.


To develop these reports, First Data analyzed brick-and-mortar and eCommerce transaction data from more than 100,000 impacted businesses. First Data's SpendTrend report is based on real, same-store spending data across tens of thousands of merchants in the impacted areas. 

To view the reports, please visit the following links: Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

Relief Efforts

In addition to analyzing consumer spending data, First Data also announced a program that provides free Clover Go® mobile credit and debit card readers to eligible business owners impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. First Data is also providing free device installation and discounted pricing for these businesses as they re-open their doors in the aftermath of the storms.

Business owners who are interested in the offer can call First Data’s toll-free customer service hotline at 1-855-401-8152, or by visiting these two websites:

About First Data

First Data (NYSE: FDC) is a global leader in commerce-enabling technology, serving approximately six million business locations and 4,000 financial institutions in more than 100 countries around the world. The company’s 24,000 owner-associates are dedicated to helping companies, from start-ups to the world’s largest corporations, conduct commerce every day by securing and processing more than 2,800 transactions per second and $2.2 trillion per year.


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