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Consumer spending grew in May as restrictions eased

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Consumer spending was 7.6 per cent higher last month than in May 2019 – the highest growth recorded since coronavirus restrictions began.

Last month further lockdown restrictions were lifted, with indoor hospitality and entertainment reopening and the limit on outdoor gatherings rising to 30 people.

This encouraged more Brits to shop and socialise, with spending up despite the wet weather.

Spending on essential items grew 11.4 per cent compared to 2019 – the sharpest increase since before the onset of the pandemic, according to data from Barclaycard.

Supermarket shopping was up nearly 18%. However, face-to-face spending at local food and drink specialist retailers, such as butchers, off-licences and independent convenience stores, rocketed by 69%, a sign that Brits are continuing to support local businesses, even as restrictions relax.

Spending at clothing (8.5 per cent) and department stores (8.6 per cent) was also up as shoppers looked to update their wardrobes for post-lockdown socialising.

While in-store clothes shopping was still down on the same period in 2019 (-6.1 per cent), this was a significantly smaller decline than in April (-46.9 per cent).

Brits also spent more on beauty products and treatments, with pharmacy, health and beauty stores (including nail salons and hairdressers) seeing a 17.8 per cent rise – a significant improvement on the growth recorded the previous month (3.7 per cent).

The reopening of outdoor attractions and entertainment – including family days out, theme parks, cinema tickets and gym memberships – meant the sector saw a noticeable improvement with a significantly smaller decline (-28.6 per cent) than in April (-50.6 per cent).

Spending at sports and outdoor retailers showed strong growth in May, with a 47 per cent uplift in the category versus 26.2 per cent growth the previous month.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “May was a positive month for a range of categories, with the nation clearly determined to show support for retailers and local businesses.

“As friends and families reunited after months apart, it is reassuring to see signs of recovery for the entertainment and hospitality industries, both of which have faced significant challenges over the past year.”

More holidaymakers either embarked on or booked staycations in May, with resorts and accommodation showing strong growth of 25.5 per cent.

However, despite international travel being allowed to restart, travel agents and airlines continue to be hit hard by the traffic light system restrictions, seeing declines of 76.5 per cent and 74.2 per cent respectively – only marginal improvements on the 82.4 per cent and 82.1 per cent drops in April.

Just 28 per cent of Brits say they are comfortable travelling to countries currently on the green list, though this rises to over a third (36 per cent) among 18-24-year olds.



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