Consumer card spending grew 3.9 per cent year-on-year in November – slightly higher than in October (3.5 per cent), but well below the 9.6 per cent rise in consumer price inflation – as Brits continue to tighten purse strings amid rising living costs and higher energy bills.
Data from Barclaycard reveals that spending on essential items grew 7.1 per cent – an increase on last month’s growth of 5.7 per cent. This was mostly driven by the largest uplift in supermarket shopping (6.5 per cent) since February 2021, as well as the highest rise in spending at food & drink specialist stores (1.1 per cent) since December 2021. These increases were likely caused by surging food prices, as well as the quarter of Brits (26 per cent) who say they have been stocking up on Christmas items earlier this year to help spread the cost.
Bars, pubs & clubs, however, saw higher year-on-year growth (4.1 per cent) than in October (1.7 per cent) due to gatherings to watch major sporting events, such as the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, the Formula 1 World Championship and Rugby Autumn Internationals.
Supply chain issues are also influencing grocery shopping habits, as two fifths (40 per cent) of consumers report being concerned about products running out of stock earlier than usual. Seven in 10 (69 per cent) of these shoppers say they’re worried about shortages of household essentials such as eggs, likely due to the recent avian flu outbreak, while 48 per cent expect to find it difficult to source Christmas meat such as turkey and ham.
The colder weather led more households to switch their heating on for the first time this season, causing spending on utilities to grow 40.1 per cent – higher than October’s increase (36.0 per cent). As a result, even more Brits are expressing concern about the impact of rising household bills on their personal finances (94 per cent in November vs. 90 per cent in October).
This comes as almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) consumers say they are finding ways to save energy at home, with over seven in 10 (72 per cent) of these Brits wearing extra layers such as jumpers and dressing gowns to keep warm. An additional 42 per cent are making meals that require less or no oven cooking, while close to three in 10 (28 per cent) are buying or using an air fryer to save energy in the kitchen.
In addition, 69 per cent say that they are glad the Government has extended the Energy Price Guarantee beyond April 2023, but at the same time they are still worried about the expected rise in energy bills after this date.
Spending on non-essential items grew 2.3 per cent in November, though this was slightly less than last month (2.5 per cent) and significantly lower than in November 2021 (22.9 per cent), as the rising cost of living led Brits to make more considered choices about their discretionary purchases.
Entertainment was another bright spot, with the sector returning to growth and recording its highest uplift (11.3 per cent) since July this year (12.1 per cent). This is likely due to Brits buying tickets for live events such as Glastonbury Festival 2023 and comedian Peter Kay’s new tour, as well as cinema tickets for new blockbuster releases such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Black Adam.
As the colder weather encouraged Brits to spend more nights in, some “insperience” categories had another strong month, with takeaways and fast food growing 13.0 per cent – higher than in October (11.7 per cent). Separately, discount stores enjoyed a boost as shoppers sought more bargains, with the category recording its highest rise (5.0 per cent) since April 2021 (23.6 per cent).
While separate data from Barclaycard Payments showed that transaction volumes on Black Friday were up this year compared to 2021, this growth may not carry over into the festive season. One in two Brits (50 per cent) plans to cut down on Christmas purchases this year, with 57 per cent of these looking to reduce spending on gifts for family and friends and 45 per cent scaling back on festive parties and socialising. In addition, four in 10 (40 per cent) are opting to use their Christmas lights more efficiently to save money on electricity, and 37 per cent are cutting back on home decorations.
Brits’ confidence in their household finances and ability to live within their means each month has seen a small dip, falling from 60 per cent and 67 per cent in October to 57 per cent and 64 per cent respectively in November. However, optimism in the UK economy has risen marginally over the same period – perhaps in response to the Autumn Statement – from 15 per cent to 18 per cent.
Esme Harwood, Director at Barclaycard, said: “As inflation and energy bills rise, Brits feel increasingly concerned about their already- squeezed personal finances. Cut-backs are affecting non-essential spending on clothing, department stores and restaurants. Many Brits intend to reduce festive spending on presents and parties in an effort to save money.
“Bars, pubs & clubs are bucking the trend – they enjoyed a strong early November thanks to the rugby, cricket and Formula 1. There’s a good chance this growth will continue as football fans gather to watch the later stages of the World Cup.”