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November Spending Trends: Consumers Remain Cautious as Economy Improves

Co-op Solutions Payments Trends Report (Spending Data from November 1-30)

December 19, 2023 – Amid largely positive economic results, U.S. consumers are taking a cautious “wait and see” approach to the holiday shopping season. Within Co-op’s credit union clients’ payment portfolios, both Credit and Debit transaction volumes fell month over month in November.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by an 3.1% annualized rate in November, while core CPI (which removes volatile food and energy prices) increased by 0.3% for the month and 4% annually. These figures were in line with analysts’ expectations and reflected a significant easing of inflation from the highs of 2022.

The U.S. posted stronger-than-expected job gains in November, as payrolls grew by 199,000, with the healthcare sector leading the way. This positive lift drove the unemployment rate down to 3.7%, while average hourly earnings increased by 0.4%.

The Federal Reserve held its benchmark borrowing rate, currently at 5.25-5.50%, steady at its December 13 meeting, with expectations rising for a series of cuts beginning as early as March 2024.

Buoyed by these positive economic trends, The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index  bumped up slightly in November to 102.0 from a downwardly revised 99.1 in October, following three straight months of declines. According to the Conference Board, “Despite this month’s improvement, the Expectations Index remains below 80 for a third consecutive month – a level that historically signals a recession within the next year.” The Board also noted that November’s increase in consumer confidence was concentrated within the 55 and up age group, while confidence among respondents aged 35-54 dropped slightly.

Overall, Co-op Solutions credit union portfolio data shows that November transaction volume rose by 4.8% in Credit and 1.5% in Debit on a rolling 12-month basis, while month over month volumes fell by -2.6% in Credit and -4.2% in Debit.

Co-op’s SmartGrowth team members are closely watching the following key spending trends this month:

1. Black Friday Offered Mixed Results. Overall, the period spanning from Black Friday through Cyber Monday boasted impressive results, with a record 200 million shoppers shopping in stores and online. However, the average spent per shopper dipped to $321.41 from last year’s $325.44. And while eCommerce traffic rose strongly to 134.2 million this year versus 130.2 million a year ago, the number of people who visited physical stores fell slightly from 122.7 million in 2022 to 121.4 million this year.

Online shopping continues to grow in popularity, with more than 1 in 4 consumers shopping exclusively online on Black Friday. And for the first time, the majority of such sales were made over mobile devices. According to Adobe Analytics, 54% of Black Friday online sales were conducted over smartphones, an increase of 6% over 2022.

Among the worrisome trends for retailers during this crucial time of year is a continuing decline in toy sales. Hasbro, the maker of popular toys and games including Transformers action figures, Monopoly, and the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy game, announced 1,100 layoffs before the end of the year.

“Spending across sectors continues to tighten, as more consumers gravitate towards Amazon, digital goods and other online retailers,” said Ryan Prentice, Director, SmartGrowth Consulting Services at Co-op. “This narrowing in spend, during a celebrated shopping season, is a further proof point of the importance of digitization across credit union services.”

2. Gen Z Embraces BNPL. While overall holiday traffic at brick-and-mortar retail stores remains soft this season, those who are spending are more likely to use Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) than ever before. BNPL is rapidly becoming the go-to financing choice for younger generations, especially Gen Z.

According to a survey from PYMNTS Intelligence, those consumers who used BNPL or other deferred payment options spent 48% more on holiday gifts this year than those who didn’t use such methods.

“The challenge for credit unions is that if consumers are taking advantage of merchant-offered BNPL programs at the point of sale, those transactions won’t flow through their portfolios,” said John Patton, Co-op Senior Payments Advisor. “Not only will they lose out on interchange income, but they won’t be able to view the member’s transaction data, so it won’t help them understand their shopping behaviors and offer the right products to fit their lifestyle.”

3. Travel, Dining Segments Close Out Strong 2023. One of the biggest spending stories of 2023 has been consumers’ return to the levels of travel, dining out and entertainment not seen since before the pandemic.

The Travel category is up 15.4% in Credit and 7.5% in Debit for the 12-month rolling period ended November 2023. Similarly, Dining & Entertainment is up 7.1% in Credit and 3.1% in Debit over the same period.

According to Reuters, industry forecasters predicted U.S. airlines would see an increase of 9% in passenger volume over the Thanksgiving holiday period versus the same period in 2022.

Year-Over-Year Category Level Spending (Rolling Year Average, and Comparing November 2022 to November 2023)

 Credit #TransactionsDebit #Transactions
Category(Dec’21 – Nov’22) vs (Dec’22 – Nov’23)Nov’22 vs Nov’23(Dec’21 – Nov’22) vs (Dec’22 – Nov’23)Nov’22 vs Nov’23
Agricultural-3.8%-5.3%0.7%-16.4%
Amazon/Bookstores21.0%3.4%41.6%2.5%
Auto2.3%9.5%-1.0%3.7%
Campers & Camping-9.3%-12.2%-12.8%-14.6%
Computers-9.7%19.6%-13.1%0.2%
Digital Goods20.0%30.0%15.7%24.9%
Dining & Entertainment5.4%7.1%2.6%3.1%
Education9.1%5.4%10.8%2.6%
Financial Services14.3%18.1%3.9%4.1%
Furniture-12.2%-8.2%-15.0%-15.6%
Gas1.1%5.2%-1.9%-1.1%
Grocery6.0%9.7%1.4%2.3%
Home Improvement-2.4%3.0%-5.7%-2.8%
Medical1.5%5.1%-1.8%-3.9%
Office-2.9%9.4%-4.7%3.1%
Organizations0.7%4.5%-0.5%-2.1%
Other6.1%4.5%13.1%19.4%
Pet0.0%1.8%-3.0%-3.7%
Professional Services2.7%4.7%2.9%5.1%
Retail1.4%6.7%-1.7%2.2%
Specialty Retail-4.5%-0.5%-7.7%-5.2%
Sport/Recreation1.9%5.0%0.6%0.8%
Travel15.4%14.8%7.5%7.8%
Utilities4.2%6.3%0.8%3.4%
Grand Total4.8%8.0%1.5%2.7%

What Credit Unions Should Do Now

BNPL is growing in popularity, and credit unions need to get in the game!

Whereas pay-later and layaway-type programs offered through merchants offer consumers a high level of convenience, they can be dangerous, as shoppers tend to spend more on impulse when offered the opportunity to defer payment at the point of sale.

Major card issuers are offering their own versions of pay over time programs, which allow consumers to select recent eligible credit transactions to pay back over several months versus a single billing cycle. Co-op is in the process of rolling out a post-purchase pay over time option that’s integrated with a credit union’s credit card offerings. Pay Over Time Transactions will provide members with the option of splitting payments for qualifying transactions. Credit unions should look to offer such options with their card programs, to keep pace with this popular trend while serving members’ long-term financial wellness goals.

“Another benefit of BNPL and pay over time solutions is that they are great tools for credit building,” said Prentice. “This is just one more reason why credit unions should consider offering such options and packaging them into their financial wellness and educational programs, especially for the Gen Z segment.”

With the New Year right around the corner, it’s also a great time to dust off low-rate debt consolidation and balance transfer offerings to help members who overspend this holiday season. Credit unions may also consider offering a skip a payment program, to help members get back on track in the first quarter of 2024.

More information on the Co-op SmartGrowth Consulting Team can be found here.


About Co-op Solutions

Co-op Solutions is a credit union-owned financial technology platform built using an industry-leading ecosystem, and whose mission is to connect credit unions to the technology, strategic partnership and scale they need to best serve their members and grow now and into the future. Co-op Solutions partners with credit unions to unlock their potential so they can compete; does the hard work of innovation, creating a one-stop opportunity to help credit unions grow; and offers knowledge and expertise in a world where everything must be integrated. Founded in 1981, Co-op Solutions services 2,650 credit union clients, processes eight billion transactions annually, and manages a nationwide ATM network of more than 30,000 and a 5,700-location shared branch network. For more information, visit www.coop.org.

Contact:
Bill Prichard, APR, Director, Public Relations
Co-op Solutions
(909) 532-9416 or Bill.Prichard@coop.org

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PSCU Payments Index – November 2023 Edition

December 18, 2023 – Today, PSCU – the nation’s premier payments CUSO and an integrated financial technology solutions provider – published the December edition of the PSCU Payments Index, the goal of which is to provide information and insights to help financial institutions navigate the evolving financial landscape to make informed, strategic decisions for their organizations and members.

As we approach the end of the holiday shopping season, December remains a crucial time for holiday spend. According to Gallup, about half (49%) of holiday shoppers will do most or all of their holiday shopping in December. In the December 2023 edition of the PSCU Payments Index, we present the second installment of our three-part Deep Dive series on holiday spending, which includes the results of the Black Friday through Cyber Monday shopping period. According to the National Retail Foundation, a record 200.4 million consumers shopped on Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Card spending growth for November increased year over year for debit, while credit activity held steady, largely driven by digital spending.

The Consumer Confidence Index increased to 102.0 in November following a consecutive three-month decline, up from a downwardly revised 99.1 in October. November’s increase in consumer confidence was focused primarily among households ages 55 and up, while confidence among households ages 35-54 declined slightly. Consumer sentiment around the expected financial situation over the next six months also rallied in November following a downward trend in the two months prior.

In the Labor Department’s Dec. 12 update, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.1% in November, bringing the 12-month rate of inflation to 3.1%, a slight decline from October. Decreases in the cost of gas and long-lasting goods offset increases in prices for housing and transportation. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy sectors, rose 4% year over year, up 0.3% from October. On Dec. 13, the Federal Reserve voted to leave interest rates unchanged at their current 22-year high. The next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting is scheduled for January 30-31, 2024, with three interest rate cuts possible next year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported total jobs increased by 199,000 in November 2023, with most job gains occurring in health care and government. Additionally, manufacturing bounced back with the return of striking workers. The overall unemployment rate for November dipped to 3.7%, or 6.3 million people.

The stopgap government action approved in November extended funding for some government agencies through January 19, 2024, and others through early February. Additional funding requests and discussions will take center stage as we enter 2024, along with requests for funding for border protection and the wars in Israel and Ukraine. As substantial economic impacts are typical byproducts of government shutdowns, we will continue to monitor these developments closely.

“With retailers launching holiday promotions earlier each year, the longer promotion cycle has contributed to an overall slower pace of holiday spending. This year, the important Black Friday through Cyber Monday shopping weekend delivered positive year-over-year growth in consumer purchases and transactions in the Goods sector,” said Norm Patrick, vice president, Advisors Plus Consulting at PSCU. “As we approach the final stretch of the holiday shopping season, we will keep a watchful eye on whether consumers continue to spend or pull back, a key indicator of consumer financial health.”

A sampling of key takeaways from the December report includes:

  • Year-over-year growth rates for payment cards were more sizeable for debit than credit, with debit purchase growth up 5% compared to 0.5% for credit.
  • Holiday spending in the Goods sector improved in November when compared to October. Year-over-year growth in purchases for the overall Goods sector was down 0.1% for credit and up 4.4% for debit in November. For the cumulative holiday season, Card Not Present (CNP) growth outpaced Card Present (CP) growth for both credit and debit transactions. For the five-day peak shopping period that includes Black Friday to Cyber Monday, year-over-year Goods sector debit purchases (+5.6%) grew more than Goods sector credit purchases (+3.1%).
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) increased 0.1% in November, while the 12-month rate of inflation was up 3.1%. Shelter continued to rise and offset a decline in Gasoline. Excluding the volatile Energy and Food sectors, the core CPI index increased 0.3% in November, putting the 12-month Core CPI index at 4.0%
  • Mobile Wallets continue to gain popularity. For November, credit mobile wallet transactions represented 3.5% of overall credit transactions and debit mobile wallet transactions represented 6.0% of overall debit transactions.
  • The credit card delinquency rate for November reached 2.46%, an increase of 13 basis points from October.

    The full report is available for download here.
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Prodigy Names New CTO to Help Lead the CUSO to its Tech Future

December 12, 2023 – Brian Elcock, a veteran of business technology, has joined the Prodigy team as its new Chief Technology Officer. This is a brand new role for the leading cloud-based core CUSO. While new to the credit union market, Elcock is no stranger to technology. Prior to joining Prodigy, Elcock spent nearly nine years at Dynata, a digital marketing data platform provider. He’s also served in a variety of technology-oriented roles in health care, financial transaction, higher education, ecommerce, supply chain management and many other industry
systems. “Prodigy is delivering incredible technologies to credit unions that many larger organizations haven’t had access to,” Elcock said. “I’m eager to bring the team my passion for leadership, technical architecture, system management, technical product ownership, agile processes, system design, project management and business
process automation. Together we can help credit unions advance even further to serve their members as they see fit.”
Prodigy CEO Amber Harsin stated, “Given credit unions’ current environment in the areas of both security and member relevance, we are very excited to bring Brian’s thoughtful leadership and technical expertise to Team Prodigy. His expertise will continue guiding us toward the future of what’s possible for a credit union core processor.”

Prodigy is a core processing and private cloud Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO), featuring a modern browser-based core and an API architecture for simple integrations, so credit unions can choose what business partners they want to use. Prodigy is 100% owned by 24 credit unions from California to New York with asset sizes ranging from $7 million to more than $500 million. We empower credit unions to participate in the direction, evolution and design of
innovative products and solutions. Visit www.CUProdigy.com to learn more.

Media Contact
Sarah Snell Cooke
sarah@cookeconsultingsolutions.com

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Navy Federal Credit Union Partners With Alacriti

The World’s Largest Credit Union Leverages Orbipay Payments Hub

December 7, 2023 – Navy Federal Credit Union, the world’s largest credit union, with $166 billion in assets and more than 13,000,000 members, has partnered with Alacriti, an innovator in cloud-based payments and money movement services, as the platform provider for Navy Federal to enable real-time payments over The Clearing House’s (TCH) RTP® network.

Navy Federal has deployed Alacriti’s cloud-native, ISO 20022-based Orbipay Payments Hub, a payment-as-a-service solution that’s cloud-based and integrates with many banking cores. Orbipay Payments Hub supports real-time payments on the RTP network, ACH, FedNow® Service, Visa Direct, and Fedwire payments, giving Navy Federal a scalable, future-proof platform for payments innovation. By leveraging Orbipay Payments Hub, Navy Federal is able to deliver the convenience of receiving funds anytime—instantly.

“By gaining access to TCH’s RTP network through our payments hub, Navy Federal is able to offer a top-notch member experience and drive operational savings.”Post this

“We are thrilled that Navy Federal Credit Union has joined the RTP Network. Alacriti has been a provider of connectivity to the RTP network from the beginning and will be able to support Navy Federal as it offers innovative real-time payments products to its over 13 million members,” said Keith Gray, Vice President, The Clearing House.

“We are honored to partner with Navy Federal and help them deliver innovative, instant money movement experiences to their members. By gaining access to TCH’s RTP network through our payments hub, Navy Federal is able to offer a top-notch member experience and drive operational savings,” said Manish Gurukula, Alacriti’s CEO.

About Alacriti

Alacriti is a leading financial technology company with a comprehensive money movement and payments services platform dedicated to helping clients accelerate their digital transformation. Built on a flexible, cloud-native framework, Alacriti’s array of solutions allows clients to deliver the money movement experiences and payments innovation that today’s users demand while seamlessly integrating with their internal infrastructures.

Media Contact

Kristen Jason, Alacriti
1 908-791-2916
kristen.jason@alacriti.com
https://www.alacriti.com/ 
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Response to New CDFI Certification Requirements Unveiled by the US Treasury

December 7, 2023 – In a significant milestone for credit unions certified as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), U.S. Treasury shared the new CDFI certification requirements. The official release came after seven years of work, delays, and revisions in response to significant pushbacks from stakeholders, including CUNA, NAFCU, Inclusiv and CU Strategic Planning, to protect credit unions from losing the designation.

CU Strategic Planning is leading the charge in deciphering and disseminating the revised requirements for credit unions. As the foremost experts in credit union CDFI certification and compliance, CU Strategic Planning proudly represents nearly 200 credit unions in CDFI compliance services, having certified 203 credit unions as CDFIs and secured $945 million in award funding. No single organization provides more direct CDFI and grant compliance services to credit unions than CU Strategic Planning. 

Project Scope

CU Strategic Planning analyzes the CDFI Fund’s programmatic and regulatory updates for credit unions that already face heavy regulatory burdens in regular operations. Its team of 35 is methodically breaking down the new requirements with a depth of expertise gained from its 15 years working with credit unions to meet US Treasury CDFI Fund requirements. CU Strategic Planning will be sharing insights with credit union leagues, system partners and credit unions. It is currently working on a credit union CDFI research project with the Filene Research Institute.

CEO Statement of Response

“Our goal is to ensure credit unions retain their CDFI certification while facilitating the expansion of the powerful designation to even more credit unions nationwide,” said Stacy Augustine, President/CEO CU Strategic Planning. “We firmly believe that every community in America deserves access to a CDFI.”

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About CU Strategic Planning

Since its founding 15 years ago, CU Strategic Planning has become the No. 1 CDFI certification and grant-writing firm for credit unions in the U.S. Through grants, strategic and tactical planningHERO Community Development Financial Counselor training, community summit facilitation and more, CU Strategic Planning achieves its mission to unlock opportunities for credit unions to change lives and their communities. CU Strategic Planning’s funding procured for CDFI credit unions has reached $945 million.

Media Contact:
Sarah Snell Cooke
sarah@cookeconsultingsolutions.com