Card Spending To Increase 12%, Study Predicts Holiday Season Will Be Better Than Normal

The buying behaviors of U.S. consumers during COVID-19 evolved to address new priorities and limitations in the supply chain, with consumer spending growing in most categories, according to a report published today from the CMO Council. 

The report -- Gaining Lift from the Consumer Shift: Insights into Buying Behavior During Covid and Beyond -- explores how consumers, businesses and marketers shifted focus during the pandemic to address changing needs and requirements, as well as what these changes will mean to the future.

Most of the findings are based an analysis of anonymized credit and debit card spending data for 40 million U.S. households from Commerce Signals. The report also incorporates the views of senior marketers and other executives from a cross-section of retailers, media companies and brands, including Audacy, Cuisinart, Echelon, Lamp Plus, Pokeworks, Fandom and Trax.

Not surprisingly, online spending rose 50% in 2020 versus 2019.

In-store retail spending during that period grew only 1%. Travel and hospitality were among the hardest-hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, but are making a significant recovery. While still behind 2019 spending levels, airline travel purchases are projected to rise 245% this holiday season compared with 2020. Hotels and motels are forecast to rise 163%.

Most spend categories tracked in the study fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic by June of 2020. 

Home furnishing, home entertainment, sporting goods, grocery and mass discounters have fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic. Losers, in addition to travel and hospitality, included clothing and department stores.

Commerce Signals predicts U.S. consumer card spending will increase 12% this holiday season versus 2020, in particular driven by consumer travel spending, which is expected to rise some 91%. Airline and hotel spending are projected to increase 245% and 163%, respectively, versus last year. Restaurant spending is forecast to be up 43%.

Retail online sales skyrocketed in 2020, tripling its growth rate from the previous year. From March 2020 to March 2021, online retail sales rose 56% compared with the previous 12 months. Still, in-store shopping has rebounded in recent months. Commerce Signals projects that during the coming holiday season, in-store sales will be a major driver of growth for retail spending, growing 15% compared with the same period of 2020. Online retail sales will grow only 3% from the year-ago period, as online sales growth slows from its huge surge of 2020.

Retailers and other consumer products companies responded to the big uptake in ecommerce in 2020 by rapidly moving to improve online purchasing experiences. From ecommerce website upgrades and home delivery improvements, to buy-online and pick-up in stores, retailers and other consumer-facing brands adapted to the new consumer mindset and behaviors. 

Streaming video services also accelerated during COVID. 2021 sales for Netflix and Hulu through mid-October of this year rose 12% compared with the same period of 2020 and 36% over the same timeframe in 2019. New services that started from a smaller base grew even faster.

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