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Card spending up as shoppers bulk buy to save money

Written by: Rebecca Goodman
Spending on credit and debit cards rose 17.7% in March, compared to the same period in 2019, the highest monthly rise since last September.

On essential items the monthly rise was higher, at 18.1%, largely because of increases to fuel and food prices, according to data from Barclaycard.

Shoppers have also started bulk buying items with 35% stocking up on tinned food, household supplies and tea and coffee in response to soaring prices.

There was a 16.9% rise in spending at the supermarket, compared to 16% in February, as a result of rising food prices. 

To combat higher supermarket costs, 58% of shoppers said they were looking for ways to stretch their weekly budget including 52% cutting down on luxuries and 48% switching to own-brand products. 

Fears over rising prices and international conflicts

The cost-of-living crisis is impacting millions of us, with inflation hitting a 30-year high of 7% in March and energy bills recently rising by 54% for millions

Nine in 10 consumers are worried about the negative impact of rising bills on their finances. International conflicts and sanctions, including the war in Ukraine are also a concern for 89% of 2,000 people surveyed by Barclaycard in March. 

Optimism about the future of the UK economy also fell to 27%, its lowest level since January last year.

Fuel prices are largely responsible for rising inflation. The average cost of petrol rose 12.6p between February and March. This compares with a rise of 3.5p per litre between the same months of 2021. Diesel prices rose by 18.8p per litre this year, compared with a rise of 3.5p per litre a year ago.

Two fifths of drivers have changed the way they travel because of high fuel prices. Of those, 54% are walking more often, 38% are cutting back on long car journeys, and 22% are cycling instead. 

More consumers spending on travel and hospitality

Non-essential spending also rose in March, by 17.5% compared to 2019. Spending in the hospitality and leisure sector rose by 18.3% including a 41.7% rise in spending at pubs, bars and clubs and a 20.3% rise in spending at the cinema. 

This is likely to be because of the hot spell in weather the UK experienced in March and the government’s end to coronavirus restrictions. The increase in contactless card payments between 2019 and 2022 is also a contributor to the rise in card spending.

Yet many habits of lockdown have remained and spending on takeaways and fast food was up 79.6% for the month, compared to the same period in 2019, and spending at specialist food and drink retailers up by 76.9%.

UK hotels, resorts and accommodation also saw a boost of 15.3 per cent compared to 2019. 

The data, from the Barclaycard monthly consumer spending index analyses how millions of Barclaycard and Barclays customers use their credit and debit cards each month. Around half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions are made with the providers. 

José Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Many sectors saw strong growth in March compared to the same period in 2019, as sunnier weather encouraged Brits to socialise at pubs and bars, book staycations and update their wardrobes for spring and summer.

“However, rising fuel prices and household bills are clearly starting to influence consumer behaviour, with many Brits changing their travel and shopping habits to save money. 

“While this may dampen growth in the months ahead, we shouldn’t overlook the expected heatwave later in April, and the fast-approaching Easter holidays, both of which are likely to boost non-essential spending.”

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