CardFlight Small Business Report

October 28, 2020

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Introduction

In this week’s report, we look back at another week of falling sales, and the third straight week of falling transaction counts.

Key takeaways:

  • Total sales were flat; transaction counts fell for the third consecutive week
  • Sales at small businesses in the Food and Drink category fell 9% last week
  • Retail sales fell 5% last week

About the report

The CardFlight Small Business Report analyzes sales performance and emerging trends among small businesses in the United States.

The report has been featured in and/or cited by The Atlantic, Bloomberg TV, Business Insider, Digital Transactions, PaymentsJournal, PaymentsSource, and others. Sign up below to receive future report notifications right in your inbox.

Learn more about the report and our methodology.

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Week-over-week changes

First, we examine change in week-over-week small business performance by analyzing change in overall sales, number of transactions per business, and more.

Sales at small businesses relatively flat last week

Week-over-week sales at the small businesses in our sample fell by 1.4 % compared to the week of October 12 to 18, 2020.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020..


Transaction counts down 2%

The transaction count metric represents the total number of transactions processed by the small businesses in our sample. Last week, transaction counts decreased by 2.1%.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020..


Number of active small businesses flat week-over-week

This metric measures all businesses who processed at least one transaction in the preceding week.

The number of active merchants was relatively flat last week, down 1%. This is the third consecutive week with week-over-week decreases.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020.


The average number of transactions per active merchant decreased by 1.1% last week. Transactions per active merchant have been relatively flat for the past six weeks.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020..


Card-present payments vs. card-not-present

The payments industry has two broad categories for transactions based on where they occur.

  • Card-present payments are those that are initiated in-person (face-to-face). This includes all instances in which a credit or debit card is physically swiped, inserted, or tapped at a merchant location.
  • Card-not-present payments are those made over the phone or online. This category of payments also includes invoices and those merchants who save cards of their frequent customers on file.

Changing behavior as seen through payment method

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020..


Changing behavior as seen through touch-free ways to pay

The three ways US consumers typically use credit and debit cards for in-person transactions are:

  • Dipping an EMV chip card
  • Tapping a contactless card or smart phone
  • Swiping via magnetic stripe

We continue to see that overall growth in sales made via contactless payment methods are outpacing those made via EMV chip.

Transactions made via contactless payment methods are now 207% higher than their pre-COVID baseline levels. The share of transactions made via EMV chip are 19% above the baseline.


Changes in payment methods for in-person transactions

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020..


Sales by business category

In this section of the CardFlight Small Business Report, we take a closer look at small business performance by business category.

  • Food and Drink establishments: Includes bars and restaurants
  • Services: General contractors, healthcare providers, providers of professional services, and others
  • Retail: Businesses like sporting goods stores, specialty retail, home furnishings, and automotive

Sales at Food and Drink businesses down 9%

Sales at Food and Drink businesses decreased by 9.1% last week. Transaction counts decreased by 1.3% week-over-week.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020. .


Retail sales down 5%

Sales at the Retail businesses in our sample continue to be volatile; down 4.9% week-over-week. Transaction counts decreased by 3.9%.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020. .


Sales at Services businesses unchanged last week

Sales at businesses in the Services category were unchanged last week. Meanwhile, transaction counts decreased by 5.4%.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Percentages provided above reflect total change over the preceding eight weeks, compared to the baseline week of March 2–8, 2020..


Month-over-month changes

Next, we take a look at the month-over-month changes to sales, transaction counts, and number of active merchants at US small businesses. This analysis is based on "whole month" comparisons, using March 2020 as the baseline month.

Monthly change in sales

Sales at the small businesses in our sample ended the month of September 5.4% below August.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Chart represents percentage-point month-over-month change compared to the baseline month of March, 2020.


Monthly change in transaction counts

Transaction counts ended the month of August 0.1% below July.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Chart represents percentage-point month-over-month change compared to the baseline month of March, 2020.


Monthly change in active merchants

The number of active small businesses in our sample ended the month of September 1.5% below August.

Source: Transactions processed by US small businesses with SwipeSimple. Chart represents percentage-point month-over-month change compared to the baseline month of March, 2020.



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About the report

The CardFlight Small Business Report is intended to provide insights into ongoing sales performance, trends, predictions, and unique analysis of US small businesses. The report has been featured in The Atlantic, Bloomberg TV, Business Insider, Digital Transactions, PaymentsJournal, PaymentsSource, and others.

Methodology

The report is based on analysis of a representative sample of more than two million transactions processed by more than 65,000 small businesses who use SwipeSimple software (the signature product of CardFlight) to accept credit and debit card payments.

To create this report, we analyzed a representative sample of millions of transactions processed by:

  • in all 50 states 
  • using CardFlight’s SwipeSimple software to accept credit and debit card payments

The SwipeSimple small business owner 

The typical SwipeSimple merchant has one to ten employees and less than five locations or mobile service points. The average active merchant represented in this data set processes approximately $130,000 in credit/debit card payments annually. The merchants are a mix of professional and personal service providers, specialty retail establishments, and food and drink purveyors.