Year-on-year growth in spend for restaurants and pubs increased by 7.2% and 7.7% respectively according to data released by Barclaycard, while general consumer spending growth for the month peaked at 2.0%, the lowest since April 2016
However, while spending remained strong, March’s adverse weather conditions did have an impact on spending in restaurants and pubs with both seeing a drop in the rate of growth from 9.7% and 7.7% in February.
Data from Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, shows that in-store spending fared particularly poorly, contracting 1.9 per cent as a third (34 per cent) of consumers reported the cold weather prompted them to spend less overall on the high street. Expenditure online grew by 11.7 per cent, however, as Brits chose to shop from the comfort of their own homes in the face of inclement weather.
Despite the slowdown in March, overall expenditure for the quarter was broadly stable with growth of 3.1 per cent in Q1, down only slightly from 3.2 per cent in Q4 2017 and matching the figure for Q3 2017.
Signs of stability also extended to consumer sentiment; 64 per cent of Brits are confident in their household finances, up 10 percentage points from the month prior and the best reading since October 2017. Likewise, the proportion of those confident in the UK economy rose from 34 per cent in February to 37 per cent last month, a seven-month high.
While these figures suggest reasons to be optimistic, however, it’s important to note that a meaningful minority of consumers feel worse off now than they did last year. Compared to 2017, a third (33 per cent) say they are less confident in their ability to save money for a rainy day, and a quarter (25 per cent) say the same about covering the cost of a night out.
Paul Lockstone, Managing Director at Barclaycard, said:
“The ‘Beast from the East’ took its toll on the high street in March, keeping shoppers at home and leading to a slowdown in consumer spending. Despite the dip in growth last month, however, expenditure was broadly stable in the first quarter.
“It seems consumers have become accustomed to adjusting their budget and as a result, are more confident in their own finances. While there are bright spots, however, it’s important to note that a sense of caution still remains, with many of us hesitant to change our spending patterns no matter what the next few months