There is one thing on Amber Colon’s mind in the coming days, her birthday trip to Universal and Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Like most Americans, Colon spent her first two stimulus checks on paying off her credit card bills and using it to support herself. However, the 23-year-old is going to spend her third check on the trip.
As a secretary at Montefiore hospital and a service coordinator for the Early Intervention program by NYC Health department, Colon spent the past year working day and night while completing her Bachelor’s degree at Baruch College. Now, she wants to spend some money as a reward for her hard work.
“I don’t want to spend another birthday locked up in my house,” said Colon. “I really want to just treat myself and do something different.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced many consumers to cut back spending in the service industry as nation-wide lockdowns shut down businesses in the industry. As coronavirus vaccination programs ramp up across the country, consumers are itching to spend on services again. And with $2.4 trillion in savings, they have the money to do so.
“I would imagine that a lot of people would like to go and see friends and family that they’ve not seen for quite a long time,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING Financial Markets LLC. “There will be opportunities over the summer where we will see people looking to meet up, travel, socialize and do much more with the economy reopening.”
According to a recent survey by the New York Fed, respondents who received the third stimulus check table are using or expected to use 24.7% of the check on spending. An average of 13% of the check will be spent on essential items and an average of 8% will be spent on non-essential items. About 41.6% of the latest relief payment would go toward savings and 33.7% towards debt payments.
Economists are optimistic the savings Americans have amassed over the past year would mean that households will be in a better position in the coming months. Income diverted to savings accounts are expected to contribute to increased spending in the coming months as consumers get excited about experiences that have been limited by the pandemic.
Increased vaccinations meant The Travel Store is seeing an uptick in customers purchasing all the products they need to travel, including luggage and travel accessories. Moshe Mittelman, the owner of the Brooklyn-based business, said sales have started to pick up over the past few weeks compared to the previous eight months where decline in tourism had slowed down sales.
“The biggest change in requests than the typical luggage and accessories is more people asking for what kinds of variety we have in face masks and hand sanitizers,” said Mittelman. “People ask for these kinds of basic things to have with them as more of a travel essential than they used to.”
Outdoor activities such as sporting events, live concerts and travel, are expected to be a driving force of spending in the second half of the year as opposed to the purchase of goods that has been driving sales for the past year.
“They already bought a lot of goods here, so I think it’s going to be more on events that they’re going to spend on,” said Stan Shipley, a corporate economist at Evercore. “Going to restaurants, they and their friends traveling, leisure activities and sporting events and all that- I think that will get a lot more spending than on a house because they spent a lot of money on their house already.”
Consumer spending on goods, largely monitored through the advance retail sales report, has been strong compared to pre-pandemic levels. Spending for goods in February was 10% above the February 2020 level. On the other hand, spending for services in February was 5% below the February 2020 level with notable decreases in categories like food services and accommodations, recreation services, and transportation services.
“The next beneficiary is definitely the services, the travel, the hotels, the leisure activities, these are the areas that should experience a huge uptick in spending,” said Stephen Gallagher, chief economist at Societe Generale. “And, within the retail sales report in aggregate, I’d expect goods to slow down on the growth and get a big boom on the services.”