This growth significantly overshadows overall consumer spending which has seen a second weak month of growth, rising just 1.9% as the slowing wage growth, flat-lining employment rates and uncertainty about the EU loomed over consumers.
Faced with a basket of macro-economic challenges, consumers reined back their spending in April to leave it just ahead of the latest RPI figure of 1.6 per cent, and falling well short of the 12-month rolling average for spending growth of 3.7 per cent.
In an effort to stretch their budgets, shoppers cut back spending on essentials – impacting supermarkets most, with the category shrinking 6.1 per cent, the worst performance since Barclaycard records began in 2011.
Consumers put some of what they saved in these areas into discretionary spending, with air travel up by 6.5 per cent as people looked ahead to their summer holiday, and restaurants maintaining double-digit growth (11.3 per cent) as consumers prioritised leisure time with family and friends.
These strong performances helped push up overall travel spend by 5.9 per cent and overall entertainment spending by 9.0 per cent, making them the best-performing major spending categories that Barclaycard monitors.
The general trend remains one of flagging consumer confidence, however, in line with figures first recorded in February that showed a sharp drop from 2015 levels. Just over a third (35 per cent) of those asked say they are confident in the strength of the UK economy, notably lower than the 2015 average of 45 per cent.
Paul Lockstone, Managing Director at Barclaycard said:
“April proved another challenging month for retail as consumers held back in the face of economic headwinds. The feel-good factor they enjoyed in 2015, encouraged by rising employment and increasing household incomes, has been hit by a combination of uncertainty on everything from oil prices to the EU referendum.
“Spending on leisure, travel and entertainment proved to be more robust as consumers protected spending on experiences by cutting back on essentials, which is a pattern we’ve seen for a few months now. However with this producing diminishing returns, the wider economic picture will need to improve if we are to see consumers return to the level of spending growth we saw last year.”