Consumer spending down but xmas set to ignite growth

Consumer spending declined 1.9 per cent in November as new lockdown restrictions took effect, but festive shopping delivered a welcome boost for some sectors, according to Barclaycard monthly data.

Barclaycard said spending on essentials grew 4.9 per cent on October, with a 17.9 per cent rise in supermarket shopping offsetting a 23.8 per cent decrease in fuel.

The largest declines at clothing and department stores seen since June contributed to non-essential spending falling 4.6 per cent.

The release of much-anticipated new games consoles and video games helped boost spending on electronics, while festive sales and the closure of physical stores in some parts of the UK spurred online growth.

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

Online grocery shopping saw a steep 97.4 per cent rise as Brits started stocking up on Christmas supplies.

Department stores and clothing shops saw declines of 18 per cent and 13 per cent respectively - the largest drops in both categories since June, when the first lockdown measures were still in place.

While physical stores experienced another challenging month, e-commerce sale rose, with general retailers and clothing enjoying online rises of 73.8 per cent and 35.6 per cent.

Electronic sales saw a 28.9 per cent uplift year-on-year, an improvement from the 12.4 per cent seen in October.

Longer evenings also saw people keep themselves entertained with digital subscriptions, which rose by 43.1 per cent, reflecting levels not seen since June (up 43.5 per cent).

Food and drink specialist stores - which includes greengrocers, butchers and bakeries - grew 54.3 per cent, a 3.6 per cent improvement from October, as shoppers supported local businesses.

In fact, a third (32 per cent) say they will make an “extra effort” to support their community this festive season, with almost half (48 per cent) of those planning to buy Christmas gifts and food specifically from small and local shops.

Discount stores - which were among retailers able to stay open when non-essential shops closed in England - also proved popular with a rise of 37.8 per cent.

Christmas shopping also boosted online spend at specialist retailers (85.8 per cent), a category which includes toy shops, jewellers and gift shops.

Looking ahead to 2021, a third of Brits (33 per cent) say they are “feeling more upbeat” about their finances and job security due to news about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Confidence in household finances remained steady at 69 per cent, up slightly from last month (67 per cent), and one-in-five (20 per cent) plan to purchase big-ticket items in the “near future”, as they are “optimistic” that life will “start returning to normal soon”.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Despite the restrictions in November, Brits are feeling more positive about their household finances as they start to prepare for the festive season.

“Supermarkets, local shops and online retailers have all performed strongly, while the longer evenings at home saw spend soar on digital subscriptions and electronics, helped by new consoles hitting the market.”

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