Lowest quarterly growth in four years could signify trend for 2019

TORONTO–The final quarter of 2018 wrapped up with a 3.0 per cent increase in spend over the same period in 2017, according to Moneris Solutions Corporation, Canada’s largest processor of debit and credit payments. This increase marks the lowest for 2018, and the lowest quarterly growth in four years.

“Every quarter of 2018 saw an increase in spend, but the increases overall were more tempered than in years past­,” said Angela Brown, President and CEO of Moneris. “This is a trend we expect to continue throughout 2019, with spending to be cautious and growth to be moderate.”

Provincially, the final quarter of the year was a period of highs and lows. Quebec and British Columbia saw above average increases of 5.4 per cent and 4.1 per cent in spend when compared to the last three months of 2017. Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, on the other hand, saw drops of 4.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent, respectively. Ontario came in close to the national average with a 3.3 per cent increase in spending over the same period in 2017.

While moderate, these figures demonstrate stronger growth than those recently posted by Statistics Canada. Both Canada’s GDP1 and retail sales2 rose by 0.3 per cent October over the previous month. Retail sales decreased 0.9 per cent in November3 on account of lower sales at gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers.

Holiday spend increases
Despite a busy holiday shopping season, October saw the largest spend increase in the quarter, with spend up 5.2 per cent, as compared to November (up 3.8 per cent) and December (up 1.6 per cent). The traditional shopping days of Black Friday, Boxing Day, and the final Friday before Christmas all saw year-over-year increases.

Black Friday was the season’s biggest day in terms of volume with an increase of 6.0 per cent over last year; however, December 21, the final Friday before Christmas, was the busiest in terms of number of transactions. This year, the Saturday before Christmas – December 22 – took the number three spot in terms of dollars spent, while Boxing Day dropped to fourth, but still showed a volume increase of 5.57 per cent over the same period in 2017.

Contactless usage still on the rise
The final quarter of the year saw Canadians continuing to embrace contactless payment solutions, with a 30.14 per cent increase in volume and a 27.68 per cent increase in transactions over the same time in 2017. While these increases continue to shrink quarter-over-quarter as more Canadians adopt contactless usage, the total share of contactless usage continues to rise – nearly half (47.75 per cent) of all transactions during the quarter were made through contactless channels.

International travellers to Canada spending more
Spend from international cards rose by 8.02 per cent over the same period in 2017. Travellers from the United States continued to spend the most in Canada, with an 8.47 per cent increase over the last quarter of 2017. China, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Mexico rounded out the top five countries in terms of spend volume, with year-over-year quarterly increases of 5.20, 15.76, 4.71 and 9.63 per cent respectively.

Statistics Canada, Gross domestic product by industry, October 2018
Statistics Canada, Retail trade, October 2018
Statistics Canada, Retail trade, November 2018

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