The normally robust card payments markets of France and Belgium are showing the effects of COVID. Monthly card volumes from STET are showing a distinctly difficult start to 2021 for the French, Belgian and DACH region card markets. French card volumes are down -9.6% YoY and Belgian card volumes are down -13.6% YoY.
While a soft start to the year was largely anticipated to be difficult, Worldline data shows a stark reminder of the uphill slog towards a volume recovery, especially in light of limited restrictions in France and Belgium.
January volume data points to further YoY decline in French and Belgian card volumes, after a strong finish to Q4.
While continued restrictions and a tough YoY comparator mean growth would have been difficult to come by in the first place, the STET data underscores how difficult a volume recovery will be without a further easing of current restrictions, noting non-essential retail was open in both France and Belgium during the month of January.
Data from Worldline and Nexi points to rough start to 2021, with the Italian government imposing very short but strict lockdowns during the holiday period in Italy (in late December and early January).
The policy is in contrast to the DACH region where governments have opted for harsher and prolonged lockdowns with Austria being the first of the DACH countries to ease restrictions, easing its lockdown on February 8th. While most of the DACH region will be in some phase of reopening by the end of March, it suggests card volume recovery will be weighted more towards H2 2021.