October ended on a whimper for small-business payment volumes, but whether that’s because of a new surge in Covid-19 or due to seasonality is hard to tell, experts say.
CardFlight Inc., which supplies point-of-sale technology for small businesses and has been tracking their sales since the Covid-19 pandemic set in in March, reported Wednesday that transaction counts were down in the last week of October. Counts in the final week were 21.6% above the first week of March, which is set as the base week, down from 26.2% the week before and 28.9% the week of Oct. 12 to Oct. 18.
It’s a mixed picture, though, as dollar volume rose 31.4% in October’s final week versus the base week, bettering the 28.5% increase in the week of Oct. 19 to Oct. 25. “The $500 plumbing repairs are happening, the $12 drink orders aren’t,” notes Derek Webster, CardFlight’s chief executive.
The late-October dip is most evident in card-present transactions and, indeed, in the food-and-drink category. Card-present transactions were up just shy of 13% in the final week compared to that March base week, down from 22.1% for the week of Oct. 19 to Oct. 25 and 24.2% for the week before that. Card-not-present transactions in the final week, by contrast, were up 37.2% over the base week.
As might be expected, food-and-drink sales tailed off in the latter part of October as establishments in Northern climates had to shift to indoor dining. These sales logged a 22.3% increase in the final week versus the base week compared to a 35.7% rise in the first week.
Overall, though, sales for all CardFlight merchants in October ended up 50.4% above March, while transactions came in 75.1% higher. Both monthly increases are the most robust so far.
The question remains whether, with new coronavirus cases rising fast, small businesses in parts of the country where lockdowns are being re-imposed may yet see a significant impact on transaction volumes and sales. New daily cases of the virus rose throughout October, starting the month with 46,418 and ending it with 84,285, an 82% increase, according to data compiled by The New York Times. On Oct. 30, the number of new cases nearly reached 100,000, more than double the number on Oct. 1.