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Q4 Spend Sights Reports Show Companies Loosened the Reins on Spending while Consumers Showed Some Restraint During HolidaysLatest Data From American Express Business Insights Shows Modest Spend Increases Across the Board; Retail Sector Spend Growth More Subdued Despite Holiday Shopping Season
NEW YORK,  February 17, 2011 -- 

American Express Business Insights today released its series of Q4 2010 Business Insights Spend Sights reports, which analyze spending patterns across an array of categories, U.S. cities and consumer groups. Based on actual, aggregated spending data between September 1 and December 31, 2010, the Business Insights Spend Sights reports offer insight into which sectors of the economy may be on the upswing, as well as those yet to rebound, based on business and consumer spending activity. The current series covers sectors such as luxury retail, dining and entertainment, and travel during the fourth quarter of 2010 as compared to the same period of 2009.

Spend Sights: A Real-Time Snapshot of Spending Activity

The latest Business Insights Spend Sights reports highlight the analytical capabilities of American Express Business Insights, which helps companies identify spending trends across a range of categories and consumer groups. By analyzing growth patterns and areas of cutbacks, businesses can gain insight into the longer-term impact emerging trends may have on their industries, and point to new opportunities for identifying their strongest customer segments.

Data Highlights

Businesses Seek Travel Deals and Value Meals as Consumers Exercise Restraint

By all appearances, corporate America continues to focus on making the investments that support business growth, although value purchasing remains a top priority. As was the case last quarter, current American Express Business Insights data show increased spending among small and large businesses on travel, dining and entertainment-related expenses. But while the corporate expense account may be making a comeback, the data show that businesses are exercising prudence by seeking lower cost meals. Consumers, for their part, are simply exercising restraint. More specifically:

  • Travel Report:
    Businesses posted notable increases in travel spend while consumers seemed more inclined to exercise restraint. Small businesses, classified as those with fewer than 100 employees, spent 7% more on airfare in Q4 and 38% more on business-class tickets. Similar trends occurred among large businesses, which posted a 6% increase in spend on airfare and a 38% uptick in business-class tickets. Overall consumer spending on airline travel, on the other hand, declined slightly among both affluent (2%) and average (1%) consumers, despite the holiday travel season.

  • Dining and Entertainment Report:
    Corporate spending trends suggest that expense accounts may be returning to healthier levels. Large businesses led spend growth in both of these categories during Q4, posting a notable 10% increase in entertainment spend -- a sign, perhaps, of a resurgence of holiday fêtes in 2010. Companies also increased spending in the dining category, although it's clear that value remains a top priority for businesses as the quick service restaurant (QSR) category saw the greatest gain from large business spending at 6%. In a positive sign for the dining sector overall, average consumers increased spend per transaction by 4% over the year prior; however, this group showed restraint in the entertainment category, with no change in spend for Q4.

Consumers Make Pointed Discretionary Spending Choices at Year's End

  • Luxury Retail Report:
    Retail spending activity in Q4 showed businesses and consumers opening up the purse strings during the holiday shopping season, although they did pull in the reins on some traditional purchases. Department stores appeared to receive the lion's share of shopping activity, posting a 13% increase in spend over the year prior, a signal, perhaps, that time-strapped consumers were on the lookout for "one-stop-shopping" opportunities. But, in a somewhat unexpected finding, overall consumer spending on jewelry decreased by 2%, despite its longstanding popularity on holiday gift lists. In another unexpected trend, consumers spent 5% less on home furnishings and furniture, which had been strong during the housing downturn.

Major Cities See Anomalies in Lodging, Restaurant Spending

  • Regional Report:
    The data reveals several compelling spending trends in several major cities and across different demographics, some in contrast to patterns for US consumers overall. In San Francisco, affluent consumers chose luxury lodgings 30% of the time -- clearly bucking the nationwide trend of increased spend on economy-class lodging. In Miami, lodging also proved a boon for the region as young affluents increased spend by 34% in Q4. New York City's restaurants owe gratitude to this same demographic, as young affluents increased restaurant spending by 10% in the Big Apple during Q4.

"As the economy continues to recover, we are seeing that businesses are more apt to spend in areas that may ultimately help their business grow, such as travel and entertainment," said Ed Jay, Senior Vice President at American Express Business Insights. "On the individual consumer front, spending increases were more subdued in general, despite the holiday season, but bright spots in specific sectors and regions point to a cautiously optimistic economic recovery," he added.

The data above and many more insights are included in four new American Express Business Insights Q4 2010 Spend Sights reports, available to media for free download at www.americanexpress.com/press.

About American Express Business Insights
As part of the Global Merchant Services organization within American Express Company, American Express Business Insights provides in-depth, actionable insights into consumer and business spending at the business, industry and geographic levels, leveraging proprietary transaction data from the American Express network of approximately 90 million cards in force across over 125 markets.

American Express Business Insights produces in-depth quarterly reports for the Airline, Car Rental, Cruise, Lodging, Restaurant, Entertainment and various Luxury Retail categories, as well as sector-specific https://businessinsights.americanexpress.com.

About the Q4 2010 Spend Sights Reports from American Express Business Insights
To identify changing spending habits across various regions, American Express Business Insights examined US consumer and business spending patterns at tens of thousands of merchants. The data shown in the reports are derived from transactions on the American Express payment network projected to reflect the general population in the industry, consumer and business segments shown. The data do not represent American Express's own performance in the industry segments shown and do not represent the spending behavior of American Express Cardmembers overall or in any particular Cardmember segment.