Nov 9, 2021
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'Carry on spending' say Barclaycard and BRC sales reports, but bad news could be ahead

Nov 9, 2021

Overall payment card spending rose as much as 14.2% in the UK last month compared to October 2019, despite rising inflation fears. That’s according to the latest Barclaycard spending report.

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And retail sales rose too, the latest British Retail Consortium/KPMG monthly sales monitor showed.

Even though consumers were travelling more and it was a “particularly good month for entertainment”, Barclaycard said that rising household bills led people to cut back on nice-to-haves while autumnal weather, plus film and TV releases “saw Britons turn to takeaways and indoor entertainment”.

But it also said that clothing fared less well than in September, despite consumers getting out and about more. 

Overall spending on non-essential items rose 14.6%, but in signs that shoppers may be cutting back on retail spending, clothing only saw an 8.9% increase compared to over 10% in September. Nonetheless, at least the category is still in positive territory, unlike  department stores, which fell back into decline (-3.1%) after two months of growth.

This came as 88% of consumers said they’re worried about the impact of rising inflation on their household finances – only a minor improvement on September’s 90%. Meanwhile 38% of them are spending less on nice-to-have items. And 29% of those who are worried are cutting back on social events, including drinks and meals outs, which may also dent the need to buy new clothes.

As for the BRC/KPMG figures. Their monthly report said retail sales (as opposed to the total consumer spending that Barclaycard records) rose 1.3% year-on-year in October and 0.6% month-on-month. It was also up 6.3% compared to October 2019.

BRC chief Helen Dickinson said consumer demand was “getting back on track ahead of Christmas” as “some people started their Christmas shopping early with beauty advent calendars flying off the shelves”. 

And social events being back also helped the clothing and footwear sectors. 

And Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG even said: “The much-reported squeeze on household spending has yet to materialise as consumers seem happy to carry on shopping.”

The overall picture painted by both reports seems to be one of consumers who are happy to spend but who are also growing cautious. It means any high-profile bad news on the pandemic or the economy could tip them back into saving-not-spending mode.

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