Consumer spending fell 7.2% in March

Consumer spending declined by 7.2 per cent in March, while hospitality and leisure showed signs of recovery, according to research from Barclaycard.

But spend on essential items demonstrated the opposite, jumping by 7.7 per cent compared to 2019.

Spending on non-essential items dropped by 14.5 per cent, representing a slight improvement compared to the previous two months of lockdown. January and February saw declines of 20.8 per cent and 18.3 per cent respectively.

Last month e-commerce continued to surge across a number of categories. Triple-digit growth was recorded in online spending for grocery, eating and drinking, and general retail.

Online retail transactions increased 84.7 per cent compared to 2019, accounting for 51.6 per cent of all retail spend in March.

During the same period supermarket shopping rose 21.9 per cent overall, with online grocery spend surging 116.5 per cent, as home deliveries for food shopping remained in high demand.

Barclaycard data also revealed that clothing declined by 28.6 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, the biggest two-year drop recorded in the category since May 2020.

But some sectors saw strong uplifts in March, with home improvements and DIY rising 34.4 per cent, the highest growth since July 2020.

Overall retail spend grew 17.9 per cent overall, which Barclaycard said was due largely to the continued rise of e-commerce.

“With springtime finally here and restrictions starting to ease, it’s encouraging to see a renewed sense of optimism across much of the UK,” said head of consumer products, Raheel Ahmed. “There are also signs that some of those sectors most heavily impacted by the pandemic, such as hotels, resorts, accommodation and entertainment, are beginning to turn a corner, as many look forward to long-awaited trips and activities with family and friends after lockdown.”

Ahmed added: “As Brits spent March sprucing up their homes and garden in preparation for warmer weather, DIY stores also enjoyed significant growth. While it remains a very challenging environment for High Street and hospitality outlets, the fact that many consumers are making plans for the future is a positive sign, and we hope to see this pent-up demand lead to growth in more categories as life after lockdown starts to resume.”

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