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Car use down as utilities spend up in April

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Spend on fuel fell in the month of April in a ‘possible sign that Brits are reducing car usage as a way to save money’, according to Barclaycard.

Consumer card spending grew 18.1% in April with the travel sector seeing its best month since before the pandemic, Barclaycard data revealed.

The global payment business which sees nearly half of the nation’s debit and credit card transactions, revealed that spending on essential items increased 17.4% – slightly less than in March at 18.1%.

It said this was largely due to spend on fuel falling from a record 26.1% increase last month to 23% in April.

As Brits seemed to have cut down on their car use as pump prices soared, they also appeared to be on the look out for discounts.

Barclaycard noted that shopping at supermarkets, and food and drink specialist stores grew 15.9% and 76% respectively, compared to the period three years ago.

It said this was a slightly smaller uplift than in March (16.9% and 76.9%), “Likely due to more Brits than last month looking for ways to save money on their weekly shop as a result of increasing prices”.

Half of shoppers are scaling back on luxuries, as they buy budget or own brand goods, while two fifths are using vouchers or loyalty points to bag a discount.

It comes as average spending on utilities per customer jumped 28.8% year-on-year, but Barclaycard also revealed that despite the challenging economic backdrop, spending on non-essentials grew 18.4%.

Spending on hotels, resorts and accommodation rose 16.6% compared to April 2019 – the highest level since September 2021. Many are also planning staycations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Special occasion spend is also up by 17% as Brits book weddings, as well as stag and hen dos, plus summer holidays to make up for lost time over the course of the pandemic.

For some, they’re treating themselves to new clothes and accessories (27%), while others are buying beauty products such as fake tan and make-up (13%).

The figures also suggest Brits are cancelling their subscriptions as spending on digital content scaled back from 56.7% in March to 52.1% in April as they look to tighten belts amid the cost-of-living crisis. Takeaway and pub and bar spend was also down on the month.

José Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “The impact of rising living costs on consumer spending is starting to show, with a number of categories – including subscriptions, takeaways, and bars, pubs & clubs – seeing less growth than in March as Brits begin to feel the pinch.

“However, the improvements seen by airlines and travel agents are particularly positive, and hopefully point to a recovery in spending on international travel later this year.

“While concerns around rising household bills may continue to hamper spending on non-essential items, the upcoming Platinum Jubilee Weekend and summer months should provide opportunities for Brits to spend on celebrations and make the most of warmer weather.”

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