Consumer Spending on Experiences Rose by Double Digits in February

consumer spending, lodging

Consumer spending on experiences rose by double digits in February.

Compared to the same month last year, consumers spent 42.7% more on lodging, 15.6% more on airlines and 14.2% more on restaurants, according to the latest edition of Mastercard SpendingPulse.

“This reflects suppressed growth in 2022, as well as continued demand for travel and experiences ahead of the popular spring break season,” Mastercard said in a Thursday (March 9) press release.

This growth in spending outpaced that of retail sales. Overall, U.S. retail sales — including both in-store and online sales and all forms of payment but excluding automotive — were up 6.9% year-over-year in February. These figures represent nominal spending and are not adjusted for inflation, the press release said.

Year-over-year retail sales had increased 8.8% in January, 7.4% in December and 8.1% in November, according to earlier editions of Mastercard SpendingPulse.

“Following a dynamic holiday season, consumer spending returned to a familiar and healthy balance in February,” Steve Sadove, senior advisor to Mastercard and former CEO of Saks, said in the release. “Consumers have remained resilient, prioritizing discounts where possible to counteract inflationary pressures.”

Another category that saw a double-digit year-over-year gain in consumer spending in February was eCommerce. This category continued its monthslong climb, rising 13.2% year over year, according to the press release.

Mastercard attributed this growth to consumers staying indoors and ordering from home during the winter weather experienced in many parts of the country.

At the same time, in-store sales were up 5.5% year over year, the release said.

Apparel and department stores saw moderate growth of 3.9% and 5.6%, respectively, with Valentine’s Day providing a boost in sales for apparel, department stores, jewelry and other gifting sectors, per the release.

“Retail spending continued to grow at a steady rate compared to 2022,” Michelle Meyer, North America chief economist at the Mastercard Economics Institute, said in the release. “The consumer remains supported by robust labor market conditions with some added cushion from savings.”

This news comes on the heels of earnings reports from three department store chains — Macy’s, Nordstrom and Kohl’s — and Best Buy that included both good news and ominous news for U.S. retailers.

These retailers were able to present better-than-anticipated earnings as shoppers continued spending despite inflation, but they also forecast smaller sales growth in the year to come.