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Hospitality Spending Grows in October but Rail Strikes and Inflation Take its Toll

Consumer card spending grew 3.5 per cent year-on-year in October – higher than in September (1.8 per cent) but well below the 8.8 per cent rise in consumer price inflation – as the cost-of-living crunch continues to put pressure on Brits’ personal finances, reveals data from Barclaycard.

The hospitality and leisure sector grew 10.2 per cent, however this was the smallest uplift for the category since March 2021, possibly due to the impact of rail strikes as well as rising living costs. In fact, of the half of Brits (52 per cent) who are cutting back on discretionary purchases to afford their energy bills this autumn and winter, six in 10 (62 per cent) say they are spending less on eating out at restaurants and 37 per cent are buying fewer cinema tickets. This perhaps explains why restaurants contracted -11.3 per cent and entertainment slipped back into decline (-1.0 per cent) in October.

Bars, pubs & clubs, however, saw a slight improvement (1.7 per cent), though prior to September this would have been the smallest growth for the category since March last year.

Some “insperience” categories saw a boost in October, including digital content and subscriptions and takeaways and fast food, which grew 4.8 per cent and 11.7 per cent respectively. This comes as half of consumers (50 per cent) are swapping nights out for evenings in to save money this autumn and winter.

With the festive season fast approaching, almost half (48 per cent) of Brits are planning to cut down on Christmas purchases, including festive activities and gifts, to save money this year. Of these consumers, six in 10 (59 per cent) will be spending less on gifts for family and friends, 44 per cent will cut back on festive food and drink, including turkey and mulled wine, and two fifths (42 per cent) will curb their spending on Christmas parties and socialising.

In addition, a fifth of Brits (21 per cent) plan to set a spending limit with their friends and family for gift purchases and a similar proportion (19 per cent) have started their Christmas shopping earlier this year to spread the cost. One in 10 (10 per cent) thrifty shoppers even plan to buy more second-hand / pre-loved items to give as presents this year.

Against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty, confidence in the UK economy fell sharply to 15 per cent – the lowest level recorded since 2015, when Barclaycard began tracking this data – and less than half the level this time last year (31 per cent). Meanwhile, 92 per cent are worried about the negative impact of rising inflation on their personal finances, with 30 per cent of Brits assessing whether every individual purchase is necessary and a fifth (19 per cent) feeling that the cost-of-living squeeze is having a negative impact on their mental health.

Esme Harwood, Director at Barclaycard, said: “Rising petrol and supermarket costs continue to bite, but Brits are spending less on energy bills as government support kicks in and people find ways to economise at home. Consumers continue to swap big nights out for cosy evenings in as they reduce their discretionary spending, while health & beauty and home improvements enjoy a little boost.

“With the festive season around the corner, we’re likely to see further cutbacks, as Brits reign in their Christmas spending. Consumers are adopting a restrained approach to festivities, reaching for pre-loved gifts and setting spending limits to manage their costs during this traditionally expensive time of year.”