Consumer Spending Grew 7.6 Per Cent In May As Easing Of Restrictions Saw More Brits Shop, Socialise And Get Set For Summer

Spending at supermarkets and food and drink specialist stores, such as butchers and off-licenses, saw strong growth, as the nation enjoyed hosting family and friends again

Image-conscious Brits spent more on outfits and beauty products for post-lockdown socialising, with uplifts at clothing (8.5 per cent) and pharmacy, health and beauty outlets (17.8 per cent)

Brits braved the rain for leisure activities, with improvements in spending on entertainment – such as family days out – and strong growth at sports and outdoor retailers

The Barclaycard report combines hundreds of millions of customer transactions with consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending

Consumer spending rose 7.6 per cent in May compared to the same period in 2019 – the highest growth recorded since coronavirus restrictions began – as the further lifting of lockdown restrictions encouraged more Brits to shop and socialise.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essential items grew 11.4 per cent compared to May 2019 – the sharpest increase since before the onset of the pandemic.

Spending on essentials was bolstered by supermarket shopping (up 17.7 per cent) and face-to-face spending at local food and drink specialist retailers, such as butchers, off-licenses and independent convenience stores, which rose by 69.3 per cent – a sign that Brits are continuing to support local businesses, even as restrictions relax.

The wet weather in early May was not enough to deter consumers from returning to shops, with overall spending on non-essential items rising 5.8 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, while face-to-face spending at non-essential retailers grew 8.0 per cent.

As shoppers updated their wardrobes for post-lockdown socialising, there were increases at clothing (8.5 per cent) and department stores (8.6 per cent).  While in-store clothes shopping was still down on the same period in 2019 (-6.1 per cent), this was a significantly smaller decline than last month (-46.9 per cent).

Image-conscious Brits also spent more on beauty products and treatments, with pharmacy, health and beauty stores (including nail salons and hairdressers) seeing a 17.8 per cent rise – a significant improvement on the growth recorded last month (3.7 per cent).

Other specialist retailers, such as gift shops, toy shops and jewellers, enjoyed growth of 27.2 per cent – over four times higher than last month’s increase (6.4 per cent) – perhaps a sign that consumers are buying more presents for reunions and celebrations such as weddings, birthdays and baby showers. This comes as nearly seven in 10 (68 per cent) say they are comfortable spending time with friends and family outdoors, and six in 10 (61 per cent) say they are comfortable doing so indoors.

Brits braved the rain to get out and about this month, with spending on entertainment – including family days out, theme parks, cinema tickets and gym memberships – showing noticeable improvement, with a significantly smaller decline (-28.6 per cent) than in April (-50.6 per cent). Spending at sports and outdoor retailers showed strong growth as consumers embraced more active lifestyles in May, with a 47.0 per cent uplift in the category versus 26.2 per cent growth last month.

Hospitality outlets showed signs of recovery as more industry-wide restrictions were lifted, most notably the change to indoor dining restrictions on 17 May. While restaurants as well as bars and pubs saw respective declines of 53.2 per cent and 19.4 per cent for the month overall, these were marked improvements on the 74.4 per cent and 67.2 per cent contractions in April. In fact, spending on bars and pubs saw a 1.4 per cent growth among 16-24-year olds, as younger consumers returned to socialising at the earliest possible opportunity.