Consumer spending in the United States has been on the rise over the past four years, and that spend is higher than ever, with numbers up 7 percent up in Q1 2022 over Q1 2021, according to recent research by digital advertising platform Cardlytics. That said, the full effects of inflation might not be realized, as consumers have started to pull back on their spending in March, which has led to a slowing growth rate after strong spending in January and February.

The report, which analyzed purchase insights from the Cardlytics platform between December 30, 2021, and March 31, 2022, reveals how consumers are spending across categories including restaurant, direct-to-consumer (DTC), travel, grocery, gas and convenience, among others.

A few highlights from the Q1 2022 "State of Spend Report" show:

Travel and entertainment experienced significant growth (54 percent) as consumers began traveling again. This category led consumer spending with year-over-year (YoY) increases among airlines (99 percent), amusement parks (110 percent), concerts and theater (213 percent), cruise lines (345 percent), hotels and lodging (39 percent), museums and parks (55 percent), and travel aggregators and agencies (83 percent).

Restaurant and food delivery both saw positive consumer spending. Restaurant had a 16 percent bump, which could be attributed partially to overall price increases. Interestingly, while restaurant delivery in Q1 increases, the overall spending for this category shows slowing growth compared to previous years (202 percent in 2019, 131 percent in 2020, 5 percent 2021).

Consumers are making fewer fuel trips but are spending more per trip. As a result of the lingering effects of the pandemic, recurring supply chain roadblocks, and a recent inflation surge, gas prices have hit an all-time national average high of $4.18 per gallon. This has led to fewer, more expensive trips to the pump. The gas and convenience sector made up approximately 16.5 percent of customer trips in 2022, a slight decrease from 2021’s 17.3 percent. As oil prices increased, so did consumer purchases. In 2021, $50-plus purchases were only 13 percent of total purchases and so far in 2022, approximately one in three fuel purchases are over $50.

Retail spending is slowing online and in-store. While overall spending across categories is up, and in-store spending has been better than expected, consumers are starting to pull back on retail purchases. The YoY consumer spend growth for 2022 online shopping was up 44 percent over 2019 and up 31 percent over 2020; however, there was no growth in 2022 compared to 2021. For in-store shopping 2022 growth was 7 percent over 2019, 5 percent over 2020 and 3 percent over 2021.

Source: Cardlytics

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