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MasterCard: Sales reflect recovery in April

BY Marianne Wilson

PURCHASE, N.Y. — After several months of sluggish retail sales, consumer shopping in the United States rebounded in April, according to the latest MasterCard SpendingPulse report, which aggregates national retail sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check.

Total U.S. retail sales grew 4.4% year-over-year, a significant comeback from the 2.2% growth in March, and the strongest growth since December of last year. The recovery extended broadly across every retail industry sector tracked by SpendingPulse.

“Improving weather, lower gas prices and a calendar shift for Easter from March of last year to April this year, all had impacts on retail sales growth, according to MasterCard’s analysis,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP market insights, MasterCard Advisors. "The bulk of April’s gains seems to have come from a particularly strong shopping run in the week leading up to Easter, with momentum cooling quickly in the last week of the month.”

The long-term outlook may still be cautious, but retailers across the board had a big win in April. Most notably, the apparel category, which has seen sales decline for several consecutive months, had the highest growth in April since January 2013. Specialty and family apparel were particularly hot items. Other big category winners were lodging and grocery, which both grew nearly 10% in April.

"April’s gains do not make up for last quarter’s sluggishness, when year-to-year growth rates slipped for three consecutive months," said Quinlan. "But we’ve been saying that warmer weather would bring improved sales, and with April’s spring temperatures, every industry sector seems to have shrugged off the weakness of earlier this year and made a strong comeback."

 

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Easter, warmer weather boost spending in April

BY Dan Berthiaume

ATLANTA — Consumer year-over-year spending growth of 4.1% gained momentum in April 2014 compared with 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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Simple Skincare campaign highlights impact of city living on skin’s health

BY Antoinette Alexander

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — Unilever’s Simple Skincare range of facial products has kicked off the “Kind to City Skin” — a global initiative designed to help women understand the impact that city living — both environmental and lifestyle-related factors — can have on their faces.

While most women are already aware of skin-irritating behaviors to avoid, such as excessive sun exposure or a high-sugar diet, a new survey reveals that women in the top 40 cities nationwide don’t realize the wear and tear their everyday lifestyle may be having on the health and appearance of their skin.

In launching “Kind to City Skin,” Simple created a provocative time-lapse video and is providing information, tools and a range of products to help women’s city skin thrive.

The Simple brand’s time-lapse video dramatically depicts the potential effects city living can have on a woman’s face in just 14 days. Simple will unveil the video on billboards in select cities worldwide, starting Monday with New York (Times Square).

While the skin damage in the video was created using makeup and special effects, the dramatization is grounded in insights, expertise and research, led by Simple advisory board member and board certified dermatologist Debra Luftman and Unilever scientists, the company stated.

“Women across the country — in cities big and small — know they need be proactive with their skin health, but they don’t always realize how their daily physical environment and lifestyle-driven habits can make their skin sensitive,” said Dawn Hedgepeth, marketing director, Simple Skincare. “We wanted to issue a wake-up call to women everywhere with a visual that dramatizes the need to be kind to city skin with Simple. We are also hosting events in cities nationwide so women can learn how to care for their skin from the inside out with a holistic approach.”

Simple, in partnership with go-to lifestyle destination POPSUGAR.com, will be hosting interactive events in the following cities (exact locations and times will be available on the simpleskincare.com site):

  • May 17th: Boston
  • June 1st: Cincinnati
  • June 7th: Chicago
  • June 14th: Minneapolis
  • June 21st: Dallas, TX
  • June 28th: San Francisco, Calif.
  • July 12th: Los Angeles

 

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