Consumer spending rises 2.5 per cent
Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, shows that essential expenditure grew by 6.2 per cent in April, bolstered by a strong performance from supermarkets (5.8 per cent growth) and an increase in petrol spending of 4.9 per cent.
Non-essential spending overall saw more muted growth of just 1.2 per cent. However, one category that did perform very well was pubs and restaurants, which reached double-digit growth of 13.1 and 10.0 per cent respectively – as Brits made the most of the sunny bank holiday by relaxing and dining out.
Garden centres were also a bright spot, with the unseasonably higher temperatures last month contributing to a rise in spending of 16.2 per cent. Yet, the wider retail sector continued to face challenges, as spending on clothing contracted by 5.2 per cent, as did electronic stores and department stores at 2.0 per cent each.
Notably, the travel industry also saw a decline, with airline spending falling into negative territory at -4.8 per cent – the lowest figure recorded since Barclaycard started tracking this data in 2015.
The Brexit delay, along with warmer weather over the Easter weekend, may be contributing factors to a slight increase in consumer confidence. April saw a rise to 33 per cent of consumers feeling confident in the UK economy, compared to 26 per cent in March.
Furthermore, over a quarter of Brits (27 per cent) admitted the sunshine in April had encouraged increased expenditure. Just under a fifth of UK (19 per cent) adults also said they spent more money than usual on leisure and experiences during Easter. Half of these consumers opted to eat out (52 per cent) or enjoy day trips with family and friends (48 per cent).
Looking forward, many continue to remain cautious with their money, as six in ten (61 per cent) expect no change to their spending plans for May. In addition, only one in ten suggested they are likely to spend on big-ticket items due to the delay in Brexit, indicating consumers remain hesitant to loosen their purse strings.
Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: “Warmer temperatures, especially over the Easter weekend, led many consumers to spend on experiences and dining out. Overall consumer spending in April has remained relatively modest, with the retail sector continuing to struggle.
“While the Brexit delay seems to have brought some short-term relief to consumer confidence, it’s clear that many shoppers still remain cautious about making any big-ticket purchases such as holidays, a new car or investing in home improvements.”