Spending ramped up during the holiday
JAMAICANS ramped up sending this holiday season, conducting just under $40 billion worth of transactions even as many were still wrestling with higher prices in some areas and other financial worries, according to the latest measure. That is up 18 per cent from the $34.11 billion transactions done in the same period a year ago.
The data presented by J.E.T.S. Limited, the operator of the MultiLink payment system, showed that from the beginning of December through December 27 total cash withdrawals from automated banking machines (ABMs) amounted to $19.894 billion from 1.359 million withdrawals. The similar figure for point-of-sales (POS) transactions was $19.114 billion, with customers swiping their cards a total of 2.479 million times during the period. It means the average transaction at an ABM on the MultiLink network is $14,644 whilst at a POS it is $7,711.
The data relate to transactions that occur on the MultiLink system only, that is debit and credit card transactions terminated on machines other than that of the banks which issued the card being used.
The MultiLink network, which tracks payments taking place across its networks at point-of-sales machines and withdrawals from ABMs, captures an estimated 25 per cent to 35 per cent of the total transactions.
Edmundo Jenez, CEO of J.E.T.S. Limited, told the Jamaica Observer that spending throughout this month peaked in the week before Christmas, with the MultiLink network registering over $12 billion worth of transactions across ABMs and POS.
“We had a very good Christmas season. A new record was set for the peak transaction for a single day, which was $2.77 billion on December 22. Over December 19 to 24, 2023 MultiLink had five consecutive days with over $2 billion in payments on the ABM and POS each day,” Jenez said in notes to Sunday Finance. He said while the peak day for transactions in Jamaica each year tend to be Christmas Eve, that was tempered by that fact that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year while, traditionally, Jamaicans tend to do most spending on Fridays and Saturdays.
He added that on December 28 a further $1.32 billion worth of transactions were done.
“We also have another big spending period coming up this new year’s weekend” he said in the interview done on Thursday, adding that he expects the network “might settle around $1.5 to $1.8 billion Friday”. Data related to this past Friday won’t be available until after this new year’s weekend.
There had been rising concern leading up to the holiday about the willingness of Jamaicans to spend because of elevated prices for daily necessities at a time when savings have fallen and credit card delinquencies have ticked higher. In response, retailers pushed discounts on holiday merchandise earlier in November, compared with a year ago. They also took a cautious approach on how much inventory to order, after getting stung with overstocked warehouses last year.
The latest report on the Bank of Jamaica’s favoured inflation gauge, issued earlier this month, shows prices are easing though they remain above the upper end of the four to six per cent target, with inflation in November measured at 6.3 per cent down from a peak of 11.8 per cent in April last year. But costs remain still higher at restaurants, for transport and household items, and for things like rent. Jamaicans, however, unexpectedly picked up their spending in November, with record transactions over the Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend underscoring resilience in the face of higher costs.