Consumer spending up 2.2 per cent in February but winter storms hamper retail sector

Consumer spending up 2.2 per cent in February but winter storms hamper retail sector

  • Spending on essentials rose slightly, as supermarkets and fuel grew by 1.3 per and 2.5 per cent respectively
  • Storms Ciara and Dennis influenced consumer spending, with Brits delaying shopping trips and choosing takeaways over eating out to escape bad weather
  • Department stores were hardest hit, contracting by 3.6 per cent as shoppers avoided the high street
  • The Barclaycard report combines hundreds of millions of customer transactions with consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending

Consumer spending grew 2.2 per cent year-on-year in February, propped up by digital subscriptions and takeaways, as Brits stayed home to avoid bad weather.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essential items rose by 1.6 per cent. This increase was bolstered by supermarket and fuel expenditure, which grew by 1.3 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

Spending on non-essentials saw slightly stronger growth of 2.4 per cent, yet the retail sector was impacted by three in 10 Brits (29 per cent) spending less because of Storms Ciara and Dennis, with 53 per cent of these consumers delaying a shopping trip as a result. There was an early sign that fears surrounding Coronavirus may have also had an impact, as 28 per cent of UK adults reported that they were avoiding the high street and other busy places.

Department stores continued to face challenges, contracting by 3.6 per cent while clothing expenditure dipped 1.7 per cent. Restaurants also performed poorly, declining by 6.4 per cent, as did airlines and travel agents, which decreased by 0.7 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

Many Brits opted to stay at home with a box set and a takeaway, as digital content and subscriptions enjoyed growth of 12.4 per cent and takeaways & fast food rose 8.7 per cent.

On a brighter note, consumer confidence in the UK economy remains high, with 42 per cent of UK adults feeling positive, up from 32 per cent 12 months ago.

This confidence is driven largely by Brits believing that progress is being made around Brexit, with one in five (21 per cent) putting their optimism down to greater certainty about life outside of the European Union.

However, in a sign of ongoing consumer cautiousness, 36 per cent of UK adults remain careful with their money and more than half (54 per cent) are worried about the rising prices of everyday items and how this will impact their ability to spend.

Esme Harwood, Director at Barclaycard, said: “While storms and floods kept many Brits away from the high street this month, broader consumer spending has held up well as people put their money towards enjoying a takeaway and digital subscriptions”.

  Spend Growth Transaction Growth
Essential 1.6% 3.3%
Non Essential 2.4% 7.3%
OVERALL 2.2% 5.8%
Retail 1.1% 3.4%
Clothing -1.7% -1.8%
Grocery 1.4% 4.9%
Supermarkets 1.3% 3.6%
Food & Drink Specialist 2.2% 15.1%
Household -1.5% 1.6%
Home Improvements & DIY -1.0% 3.1%
Electronics -2.4% 0.8%
Furniture Stores -1.2% -0.1%
General Retailers 4.9% 2.0%
General Retailers & Catalogues 8.8% 0.5%
Department Stores -3.6% 2.0%
Discount Stores 5.7% 6.0%
Specialist Retailers 0.6% 2.5%
Pharmacy, Health & Beauty 2.6% 2.1%
Sports & Outdoor -1.2% -3.3%
Other Specialist Retailers -0.2% 3.9%
Hospitality & Leisure 3.1% 8.2%
Eating & Drinking 5.4% 8.0%
Restaurants -6.4% -8.4%
Bars, Pubs & Clubs 5.6% 13.1%
Takeaways and Fast Food 8.7% 6.9%
Other Food & Drink 7.2% 10.1%
Entertainment 8.0% 14.6%
Hotels, Resorts & Accomodation 3.8% 4.5%
Travel 0.2% 7.5%
Travel Agents -0.3% 0.9%
Airlines -0.7% -4.9%
Other Travel 1.5% 8.4%
Other 3.5% 10.1%
Digital Content & Subscription 12.4% 21.5%
Fuel 2.5% 2.9%
Motoring 1.4% 13.0%
Other Services 3.8% 6.8%
Online 4.8% 10.2%
F2F 0.3% 4.4%

Notes to editors

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 25 January 2020 to 21 February 2020. It is compared with 26 January 2019 to 22 February 2019.

The consumer confidence survey in this press release was carried out between 21 and 24 February 2020 by Longitude Research on behalf of Barclaycard. There were 2,005 respondents, providing a representative sample of UK consumers by age, gender, region, and income group.

For more information, please contact Polly Ewell at or on +44 (0) 203 5550824 or Julia Madden at or on +44 (0) 207 116 9559. 

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