Seasonal Factors Impact Small Business Sales as Spring Arrives

small business

Fiserv, Inc.‘s Small Business Index for March 2024 found that small business sales grew +2.0% year-over-year while declining 0.8% month-over-month. 

“Consumer spending fluctuated throughout March, receiving a boost to small business sales when Spring Break travel began followed by a slow finish as many small businesses closed for Easter on the day’s final month,” said Prasanna Dhore, Chief Data Officer at Fiserv, in a news release. “Small restaurants had a particularly strong March, gaining +4.0% in spending over February and +5.8% over March 2023 with consumers, once again, devoting the biggest share of their wallets to this sector.” 

Retail Spotlight

National retail sales across small businesses were soft compared to February (-1.6%) but trending well ahead of March 2023 (+5.1%), the index states. Some of the month-over-month slowdown can be attributed to the fact that many small businesses opted to close in observance of the Easter holiday.

While most subsectors within retail experienced a month-to-month deceleration in sales, every subsector was ahead of their 2023 results. One bright spot among the retail subsectors was Clothing, Accessories, Shoes and Jewelry – the only retail area to deliver a modest acceleration +(0.4%) over February, according to the index. 

Categories That Experienced Growth

Spring break celebrations and travel also contributed hefty sales increases for Accommodations (hotels and short-term vacation rentals), which grew +3.5% month-over-month. Amusement, Gambling and Recreational Industries also grew +4.1 month-over-month and +10.5% year-over-year, the index states. 

Food Manufacturing was the most active small business subsector in March, with its index increasing nine points to 175. Sales for small businesses in this subsector grew +5.2% from February 2024, and +14.0% over 2023, according to the index. 

Other growing subsectors in March included: Web Search Portals, Libraries, Archives and Other Information Services (+5.6% MoM, +16.1% YoY); Personal and Laundry Services (+3.1% MoM, +3.2% YoY); Performing Arts, Spectator Sports and Related Industries (+2.3% MoM, +1.8% YoY).