UK consumer spending up in 2021, fashion and beauty rose faster - report
Consumer spending in 2021 was characterised by the continued growth of online and a bigger focus on sports and home improvement spending, a new report from Barclaycard has shown.
The major payments processor said consumer spending grew 5.9% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic year 2019. Clothing in general rose even faster last year with a 7.6% increase, which Barclaycard put down to a boom in socialising following the end of Covid restrictions and a successful vaccination programme. Meanwhile, pharmacy, health & beauty retailers rose 17.5% for the same reason.
And while Covid-19 “continued to hamper the hospitality and leisure sector, social distancing restrictions spurred the rising popularity of ‘insperiences’ and outdoor pursuits, resulting in growth for both digital entertainment and sports & outdoor retailers”.
The company said the beginning of 2021 saw online shopping surge as all non-essential retail and hospitality remained closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Online retail increased 87.7% in March 2021 compared to 2019. And online habits now appear to be ingrained for many consumers as shopping online proved popular throughout the year. E-tail recorded strong growth of 63.2% annually, compared to face-to-face retail spending, which saw a noticeably smaller rise of 0.6%.
The ‘insperience’ economy grew too with consumers spending much more on takeaways to eat at home and on digital content and subscriptions as households purchased the latest films and games consoles. The downside of this for fashion and beauty would have been that consumers staying home wouldn’t have felt as much need as usual for new clothes, shoes and beauty products.
That said, there were plenty of opportunities for them to buy new clothes, make-up, skincare and fragrance products because of activities that replaced their usual ones.
For instance, holidays taken in the UK (staycations) were on the rise as Covid caution and travel restrictions forced consumers to change their holiday plans. In June, the hotels, resorts and accommodation category saw growth for the first time (+3.7%) since pre-pandemic times, with this figure rising to 15.9% in August. That may not have meant the huge boom in hot weather pieces like beachwear that we usually see in the summer, but items suitable for a slightly chillier UK break would have been in demand.
That’s particularly the case for older consumers. They spent the most on staycations, with spend from those aged 50-64 up 27.7% in June, compared to an 18.4% decline among 16-24-year-olds.
And while homeowners splashing out more on their properties in 2021 (with spending on home improvements & DIY as well as furniture up 26.2% and 19.8% respectively) may have diverted spend away from fashion and beauty, the sports category prospered. Barclaycard said sports & outdoor retailers rose 21.9% overall last year. And anything connected to golf is likely to have done well as it added that spending on golf clubs alone went up 50.2%.
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