Shift4 Payments (NYSE: FOUR), the leader in integrated payment processing solutions, has released its report on merchant transaction activity in December 2020 as part of the company’s ongoing series of monthly updates. This comprehensive update provides unique insights into the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on merchants in various industries, based on the company’s gateway transaction data which it posts daily on shift4cares.com.
Overall, the data shows a decline in transaction activity when compared with November volumes. Most notably, hotels and restaurants across the country experienced a 50% and 40% decline respectively in December transaction volume from the prior year. Retail and ecommerce businesses, on the other hand, continued to see positive trends as they grew their transaction count on a year-over-year basis for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
Despite these troubling hospitality statistics, transaction activity is still meaningfully above the lows experienced by merchants during March and April, signaling that merchants are adapting to the increased lockdowns in creative ways. Perhaps most promising, the number of merchant locations open for business continues to grow each month and is currently just 3% off of pre-pandemic highs.
Unlike in previous months, the negative month-over-month and year-over-year trends were felt across all states, although weather clearly impacted the severity of these declines. States in the southeastern U.S. (NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS) experienced more modest year-over-year declines: ranging from -2% to -16%. California and New York, which collectively share ~22% of the nation’s economic activity, were down 55-60%.
Shift4’s end-to-end platform also experienced a modest year-over-year decline in December volume of 4% despite having 20% more active merchants than December of 2019.
“December was an expectedly challenging month for hospitality merchants across the country,” said Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. “While these statistics are disconcerting, it is important to understand that the overall trends of merchant activity remain quite positive, especially in ecommerce and other segments of the business. Despite the realities of the pandemic, we saw continued payment volume improvement from May through October, with October representing our highest volume month in Shift4 history. It should not be that surprising that November and December would regress given social distancing restrictions, regional lockdowns and colder weather. Trends observed throughout 2020, coupled with the increasing vaccinations across the country, make us very optimistic about the continued recovery for merchants in 2021.”