Fiserv has published the Fiserv Small Business Index for April 2024. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted Fiserv Small Business Index increased 4 points to 145. Small business sales grew 5.6% year-over-year, and 2.2% month-over-month.

“Consumer spending shifted significantly in April, with appreciable gains in service-based business spending. This includes professional services such as tax preparation, offsetting a slowdown in discretionary spending,” said Prasanna Dhore, Chief Data Officer at Fiserv.

“Retail was also a bright spot in April, with small retailers seeing 7.7% year-over-year sales increases compared to 2023.”

Retail rebounds from March, household-related subsectors lead the way

Nationally, small business retail sales rebounded nicely from a sluggish March. Sales grew 1.6% month-over-month and 7.7% year-over-year. Most retail subsectors experienced strong month-over-month increases. This includes furniture (+4.9%), building materials (+3.8%), motor vehicle parts (+4.4%) and gas stations (3.1%). For these destinations, the year-over-year trajectory was similarly strong.

Service-based business spending grows across sectors

Consumer priorities shifted significantly toward service spending in April. Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services saw a 7.0% increase over March and a 16.4% increase year-over-year. With the IRS tax filing deadline falling within April, demand spiked for bookkeeping and accounting, along with other related business services. Large and small construction projects also drove demand for small business architectural, engineering and surveying services.

Consumers back off discretionary spending

Small businesses that capture discretionary spend, including restaurants, businesses focused on travel and recreational activities, and select retail businesses, such as clothing retailers, did not perform as well in April as in recent months.

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Food services and drinking places, specifically, saw sales growth slow as consumer demand for lower-priced food options increased. Restaurant spending shrank 3.1% compared to March and was off 0.2% from April 2023. The reduction in restaurant foot traffic was much less significant. This indicates that consumers are still visiting restaurants but ordering less expensive items or choosing lower-cost establishments.

Fiserv Small Business Index

The Fiserv Small Business Index is published during the first week of every month. It is differentiated by its direct aggregation of consumer spending activity within the US small business ecosystem. Rather than relying on survey or sentiment data, the Fiserv Small Business Index is derived from point-of-sale transaction data. This includes card, cash, and cheque transactions in-store and online across approximately 2 million US small businesses.