People at a barbeque

Summer of Love ‘21: Key to customers’ hearts is to give them more options to shop, spend and socialise

After many months with so few choices around where to go, who to meet with and what to do, it seems Brits are once again very happy to be able to spend their time and money on socialising with friends and family this summer.

Now with so many more options available to them, many are determined to make the most of it, as was evident from Barclaycard's recent spend data, showing a 7.6 per cent uplift in consumer spending throughout May (compared to the same period in 2019).

With a cautious spirit of bonhomie in the air (and plenty of sport to watch on the TV), we take a look at where people have been spending, and what can retailers do to give their customers the best possible experience throughout the twenty-first century’s very own Summer of Love.

Where have we been going? 

According to Barclaycard's data, spending on entertainment showed improvement in May, with a significantly smaller decline (-28.6 per cent) than in April (-50.6 per cent). As certain restrictions were loosened towards the end of spring, family days, theme parks, cinemas and gyms started buzzing with life and energy for the first time this year. Interestingly, sports and outdoor activities were by far the strongest sectors, as active consumers drove a 47.0 per cent uplift in the category compared to 26.2 per cent in April.

Of course, you don’t have to pull on your lycra to show love for sport. New Barclaycard consumer data gathered over the 12-13 June weekend found that a blast of sunshine after all the rain coupled with the opening games of the Euros gave UK pubs and bars a 1.6 per cent boost (compared with the same weekend in 2019), as many met up with pals to cheer on their respective teams. 

The intoxicating combination of sunshine and sport calls for one thing - FOOD. According to Barclaycard’s spend data, supermarket revenues were up 16.3 per cent over the same glorious weekend, as people skipped to stock up on supplies for barbeques, picnics and garden parties.

As Barclaycard Payments CEO Rob Cameron says: “It wasn’t just football fans that had cause to celebrate. The combination of sport and sunshine brought a welcome boost to the UK economy, especially for pubs, bars and supermarkets. While this continues to be a challenging trading period for the hospitality industry, these figures are hopefully an early indicator of brighter times ahead when all lockdown restrictions are lifted.”

Brits are shopping to socialise this summer

It’s not simply that we have more options to socialise this summer, it’s also that we feel more confident in doing so. Barclaycard data also found that almost seven in ten (68 per cent) say they are now comfortable meeting friends and family outdoors, and six in ten (61 per cent) say they are comfortable to meet indoors. These reunions come with more spending in certain categories.

As well as extra food and drink, the explosion in reunions and celebrations has triggered high growth (+27.2 per cent) in specialist retailers like gift shops, toy shops and jewellers – perhaps a sign that consumers are buying more presents as they finally get to catch up with loved ones at weddings, belated birthdays and baby showers.

Then there’s getting ready for the occasion; if we’re meeting up, we want to look and feel good doing it. Perhaps unsurprisingly after all that time spent in jogging bottoms, May also saw a huge surge in spending in clothing (+8.5 per cent) and department stores (+8.6 per cent), as well as gym memberships, beauty products and treatments (+17.8 per cent).

It’s all about options

Some of the more dramatic figures we have seen in our spend reports over the past 18 months have as much to do with what we’re not able to do as what we are. Time and time again since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, we’ve seen Barclaycard spend data flex and contract in different areas in response to the latest government advice. When non-essential retail was closed, we saw a boom in online shopping. When going out was off limits, we spent more on at-home ‘insperiences’. Now, with most of our big holidays off the menu, at least for the time being, we have plenty of options for summer fun closer to home - and after the long, cold months stuck in the house, consumers are taking them. 

As a retailer, small business or service provider, this is a great opportunity to tap into the evolving consumer mind-set, prioritising freedom of choice and great customer service above all else. Now is the time to capture the imagination of customers by offering your best ever experience. Giving people more options when it comes to both product choice and payments and helping people spend on their own terms is mutually beneficial for customers and retailers and is the best way to help support your community in living their best lives this summer.