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Hottest May Bank Holiday ever fuels spending boom

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

The warmest early May Bank Holiday on record contributed to a spending boom on British high streets last month.

Consumer spending rose 5.1% year-on-year in May, the fastest rise in 12 months, according to data from Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions.

In contrast to the negative impact of the ‘Beast from the East’, the hot weather over the Bank Holiday boosted spending for many retailers. Brits spent 50.3% more in garden centres, 19.7% more in DIY stores and 10.1% more in supermarkets compared to the same long weekend in 2017.

Over the month, non-essential spending growth reached a 14-month high of 4.6%, with the warm weather boosting fortunes in clothing (up 5.8%) as shoppers updated their wardrobes. In particular, spending on women’s clothing rose 2.9% – the first increase since June 2017.

In store sales rose 2.6% as the good weather brought people out onto the high street. Online sales growth was up 11%.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: “Although a degree of caution remains, UK shoppers felt confident enough to let themselves enjoy the sunny weather in May.

“Looking ahead, it seems the experience economy will remain a top priority as consumers plan to treat themselves to major music and sporting events. In the next few months, we expect to see families carefully balancing their budgets to ensure they don’t miss out on their must-see and must-do experiences of the summer.”

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The warm weather certainly cheered up the May figures, but there’s a risk that the fortunes of the high street may be as variable as the weather this summer.

“The proportion of people saying they were confident in their household finances fell slightly from 62% to 57%. This isn’t a major drop, but at a time when fears of interest rises have eased, unemployment continues to fall, and the sun is out, the lack of overwhelming optimism is notable.”