December spend report

Consumer spending declined 1.9 per cent in November as new restrictions took effect

  • Spending on essentials grew 4.9 per cent, with a 17.9 per cent rise in supermarket shopping offsetting a 23.8 per cent decrease in fuel
  • The largest declines at clothing and department stores seen since June contributed to non-essential spending falling 4.6 per cent
  • The release of much-anticipated new consoles and video games helped boost spending on electronics, while festive sales and the closure of physical stores in some parts of the UK spurred online growth
  • The Barclaycard report combines hundreds of millions of customer transactions with consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending

Despite another challenging month, there were some bright spots in November as consumers shopped online to make the most of seasonal sales, while Covid-19 vaccine news also contributed to Brits feeling more upbeat as the Countdown to Christmas began.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essential items grew 4.9 per cent year-on-year, as ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions meant many Brits stayed at home and shifted their spending to essential stores and online.

Supermarkets saw a 17.9 per cent year-on-year rise in expenditure, up from 13.9 per cent in October, helping to offset a 23.8 per cent decline in fuel. Online grocery shopping also saw a steep 97.4 per cent rise as Brits went online to start stocking up on Christmas supplies.

Spending on non-essential items contracted 4.6 per cent, with department stores and clothing seeing declines of 18.0 per cent and 13.0 per cent respectively – the largest drops in both categories since June, when the first lockdown measures were still in place.

While physical stores experienced another challenging month, ecommerce sale rose, with general retailers and clothing enjoying online rises of 73.8 per cent and 35.6 per cent respectively.

In a month of much-anticipated new console and video game releases – and as Brits spent more time at home – electronic sales saw a 28.9 per cent uplift year-on-year, an improvement from the 12.4 per cent seen in October.

Longer evenings also saw people keep themselves entertained with digital subscriptions, which rose by 43.1 per cent, reflecting levels not seen since June (up 43.5 per cent), just before the first national lockdown measures gradually lifted. This comes as nearly three in 10 (28 per cent) consumers reveal they have been spending more on goods and services to entertain themselves indoors under the latest restrictions.

Food and drink specialist stores – which includes greengrocers, butchers and bakeries – grew 54.3 per cent, a 3.6 per cent improvement from last month, as shoppers continued to support local businesses. In fact, a third (32 per cent) say they will make an extra effort to support their community this festive season, with almost half (48 per cent) of those planning to buy Christmas gifts and food specifically from small and local shops.

Discount stores – which were among retailers able to stay open when non-essential shops closed in England – also proved popular with a rise of 37.8 per cent, as half (51 per cent) of consumers say they have become more careful to seek out value for money in the purchases they make.

Christmas shopping also boosted online spend at specialist retailers (85.8 per cent), a category which includes toy shops, jewellers and gift shops.

However, social distancing restrictions continued to hamper the long-suffering hospitality sector, with steeper year-on-year declines at restaurants (-56.7 per cent) and pubs & bars (-56.3 per cent) than were seen in October (which recorded contractions of 32.7 per cent and 13.5 per cent respectively).

Looking ahead to 2021, a third of Brits (33 per cent) say they are feeling more upbeat about their finances and job security due to news about the Covid-19 vaccines. Confidence in household finances remained steady at 69 per cent, up slightly from last month (67 per cent), and one in five (20 per cent) plan to purchase big-ticket items in the near future, as they are optimistic that life will start returning to normal soon.

For some, Christmas is an opportunity to raise spirits and spoil their nearest and dearest: one in four (26 per cent) admit to putting their Christmas tree up earlier than usual and a fifth (21 per cent) say they will spend more than normal on gifts for loved ones. However, not all consumers are feeling optimistic, with confidence in the UK economy remaining low at 23 per cent, versus the 31 per cent seen in November 2019.

Raheel Ahmed, Head of Consumer Products, said: “Despite the restrictions in November, Brits are feeling more positive about their household finances as they start to prepare for the festive season. Christmas trees are going up just that bit earlier, and many are planning to spend more treating their loved ones after such a testing year.

“Supermarkets, local shops, and online retailers have all performed strongly, while the longer evenings at home saw spend soar on digital subscriptions and electronics, helped by new consoles hitting the market.

“Unfortunately, the hospitality and entertainment sectors have continued to suffer. The big question now is whether Brits will flock to the high street for Christmas shopping after the November lockdown, providing a much-needed boost in December.”

  Spend Growth Transaction Growth
Essential 4.9% -9.0%
Non Essential -4.6% -6.0%
OVERALL -1.9% -7.1%
Retail 18.1% 5.0%
Clothing -13.0% -22.1%
Grocery 21.1% 0.6%
Supermarkets 17.9% -2.8%
Food & Drink Specialist 54.3% 25.4%
Household 21.8% 19.2%
Home Improvements & DIY 24.0% 22.5%
Electronics 28.9% 24.2%
Furniture Stores 7.0% -12.0%
General Retailers 33.0% 28.0%
General Retailers & Catalogues 55.0% 54.2%
Department Stores -18.0% -28.9%
Discount Stores 37.8% 10.2%
Specialist Retailers 8.0% -8.6%
Pharmacy, Health & Beauty -2.8% -14.8%
Sports & Outdoor 20.9% -1.9%
Other Specialist Retailers 11.5% -4.1%
Hospitality & Leisure -50.2% -36.4%
Eating & Drinking -24.4% -28.4%
Restaurants -56.7% -60.6%
Bars, Pubs & Clubs -56.3% -61.1%
Takeaways and Fast Food 22.5% -2.6%
Other Food & Drink -30.0% -29.5%
Entertainment -62.8% -56.2%
Hotels, Resorts & Accomodation -58.9% -63.6%
Travel -70.7% -48.3%
Travel Agents -79.7% -70.5%
Airlines -73.6% -73.8%
Other Travel -61.4% -46.8%
Other -5.5% -0.5%
Digital Content & Subscription 43.1% 30.0%
Fuel -23.8% -13.5%
Motoring -13.0% -22.4%
Other Services 1.1% 2.0%
Online 23.0% 34.6%
F2F -18.4% -20.9%

– Ends –

Notes to editors

In the coming months, the Consumer Spending release will be based on a slightly adjusted dataset, following the launch of UK Spend Trends 2.0. The new offering builds on Barclaycard’s strong history of publishing insights about UK consumer spending, and provides an in-depth view into consumer spending across more than 250 industries, customer age demographics as well as online and in-store purchases. 

*Established in 2014, Barclaycard issues a monthly press release commenting on consumer spending trends.

Barclaycard sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, which provides us with unique insight into UK consumer spending. The monthly spending data in this press release is based on Barclaycard credit card and Barclays debit card transactions, and is analysed by the Barclays Market and Customer Insights team. It relates to the period 24th October 2020 to 20th November 2020. It is compared with 26th October 2019 to 22nd November 2019.

The consumer confidence survey in this press release was carried out between 20th November and 23rd November 2020 by Longitude Research on behalf of Barclaycard. There were 2,000 respondents, providing a representative sample of UK consumers by age, gender, region, and income group.

For more information, please contact please contact Polly Ewell at or on +44 (0)7882 088 493 or Rebecca Butler at or +44 (0)7881 318767

About Barclaycard

Barclaycard, part of Barclays Bank PLC, is a leading global payment business that helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and take payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit. In the UK we process nearly £1 in every £3 spent using credit and debit cards, and in 2019 we processed over £272bn in transactions globally. We also partner with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit.

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About Barclays Market and Customer Insights

Barclays Market and Customer Insights helps businesses keep up to date with spending trends, monitors their market position and enhances their understanding of customer behaviour, based on actual customer spending. Visit or email