The British economy is experiencing a spending boom as Britons dust off their credit and debit cards to fuel a 15.4% jump in consumer spending through August versus the same month in 2019, according to new data from Barclaycard.
The report, which combines hundreds of millions of customer transactions with consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending, shows that with the sole exception of international travel, spending grew across all sectors in August, with spending at bars, clubs and pubs reaching its highest growth rate for 17 months.
Hard-hit restaurants have also turned a corner, with spending surging into positive territory (0.1%) for the first time since the pandemic made its presence felt.
Sharing in the bonanza were department stores, as clothing sales surged to its highest level since the pandemic on the back of a clamor for school uniforms and workwear.
Needless to say, entertainment spending also hit a new high as families flocked to theme parks, theaters and festivals to propel the sector to a new high of 24.2%. Knock-on beneficiaries of this were taxi and fuel spend, which jumped 20.6% and 7.2% respectively.
This success propelled spending on non-essential items forward by 15.9%, outpacing growth in essential item spend of 14.5%, eclipsing the previous high in July of 10.4%.
Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclays UK, said: “Socializing, shopping and staycations were top of the agenda for Brits in August, as families and friends made the most of the school holidays, giving a welcome boost to hospitality and leisure businesses. Over the coming months, these sectors should also benefit from Brits returning to the office, as colleagues enjoy long overdue catch-ups over post-work meals and drinks.”
Attributed to a rush to make the most of the dying days of summer, as well as a return of many workers to the office, the figures give the clearest signal yet that the economy is beginning to shake off the lingering effects of the pandemic.
Mounting concerns over inflation may yet bring the party to a premature halt, however, with 64% fretting that everyday items are becoming more expensive, prompting 42% of consumers to make lifestyle changes to rein in their spending.
In all, 35% say they will prioritize value in future purchases, while 30% fear that their hard-earned savings could be eroded away.