Consumer spending declined 36.5 per cent in April

  • Spending on essentials and non-essentials declined 7.5 per cent and 47.7 per cent respectively as social distancing measures took full effect
  • Specialist food and drink stores, including off licences and greengrocers, saw a strong month as shoppers continued to support local businesses
  • Confidence in the UK economy fell to just 20 per cent, yet Brits remained optimistic about their household finances
  • The Barclaycard report combines hundreds of millions of customer transactions with consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending

Consumer spending contracted by 36.5 per cent year-on-year in April, showing the impact of ongoing social distancing measures.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essential items declined by 7.5 per cent, which can largely be attributed to a 58.9 per cent reduction in fuel spend. Supermarkets, meanwhile, continued to see a boost in sales – climbing 14.3 per cent as Brits made larger shops and prepared more meals at home.

Spending on non-essentials fell by 47.7 per cent with travel, which includes public transport, seeing a decline of 86.8 per cent as much of the UK stopped commuting. Bars, pubs & clubs also contracted by 96.9 per cent.

Food and drink specialist stores – which includes off-licences, greengrocers, independent convenience stores, butchers and bakeries – were a bright spot, seeing 37.7 per cent growth. This was helped by Brits continuing to support local businesses, with more than half (57 per cent) saying the current environment has made them realise how much they value these stores. As a result, UK adults are planning to spend more in local retailers including butchers (27 per cent), cafés and restaurants (26 per cent) and farmer’s markets (23 per cent) when restrictions are lifted.

While overall home improvement and DIY declined by 42.7 per cent, it seems Brits are still taking advantage of this time to smarten up their homes and gardens, as online spend in this category increased by 26.5 per cent – accounting for 86.1 per cent of purchases. Digital subscriptions continued to increase in popularity with strong growth of 50.2 per cent. Online spend for eating and drinking – which includes takeaways – also saw growth of 24.6 per as diners treated themselves, while also helping to support local restaurants.  

With many shops closed and much of the nation not commuting, almost nine in 10 UK adults (88 per cent) have saved money on everyday expenses since the lockdown began. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of those are putting the money into savings; 23 per cent towards their next holiday; and nearly one in 10 (nine per cent) are planning to buy their family a treat.

These savings may partly explain why the UK’s confidence in its household finances remains resilient at 70 per cent – a figure that rises to 85 per cent of those aged 55, compared to 58 per cent of adults in their late teens to early thirties.

Despite this personal positivity, consumer confidence in the UK economy overall has dropped to its lowest for at least six years: just 20 per cent of adults feel positive, representing a five per cent decrease from last month. Confidence in job security also declined to 42 per cent, its lowest level for 17 months, suggesting concern for the months to come.

Esme Harwood, Director at Barclaycard, said: “It’s been a tough time for retailers as consumer spending has dropped considerably under lockdown. There are some bright spots, though, as Brits have turned their focus online and looked to takeaways, digital subscriptions and DIY to keep entertained and occupied. A renewed sense of community may be welcome news for independent businesses, with a growing desire to support local stores in life after lockdown.”

  Pure Spend Growth Pure Transaction Growth
Essential -7.5% -31.9%
Non Essential -47.7% -42.6%
OVERALL -36.5% -38.7%
Retail -8.5% -21.2%
Clothing -54.2% -54.9%
Grocery 16.6% -18.8%
Supermarkets 14.3% -21.3%
Food & Drink Specialist 37.7% -1.5%
Household -32.5% -26.0%
Home Improvements & DIY -42.7% -44.0%
Electronics -0.6% 3.8%
Furniture Stores -49.4% -39.9%
General Retailers 10.0% -3.2%
General Retailers & Catalogues 42.0% 30.4%
Department Stores -53.1% -62.9%
Discount Stores 11.9% -25.1%
Specialist Retailers -37.9% -37.9%
Pharmacy, Health & Beauty -49.9% -46.5%
Sports & Outdoor -36.2% -49.9%
Other Specialist Retailers -29.4% -26.6%
Hospitality & Leisure -85.1% -86.2%
Eating & Drinking -79.1% -85.0%
Restaurants -93.1% -92.1%
Bars, Pubs & Clubs -96.9% -98.2%
Takeaways and Fast Food -45.0% -70.7%
Other Food & Drink -87.2% -89.0%
Entertainment -89.1% -92.6%
Hotels, Resorts & Accomodation -92.0% -95.8%
Travel -86.8% -86.1%
Travel Agents -84.8% -84.6%
Airlines -88.0% -90.5%
Other Travel -88.6% -86.0%
Other -47.1% -18.8%
Digital Content & Subscription 50.2% 54.6%
Fuel -58.9% -46.9%
Motoring -78.5% -75.7%
Other Services -38.0% -29.1%
Online -9.8% 19.0%
F2F -53.9% -56.4%

Notes to editors

From next month, 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 Barclaycards’ 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 28th March 2020 to 24th April 2020. It is compared with 30th March 2019 to 26th April 2019.

The consumer confidence survey in this press release was carried out between 24th April and 27th April 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 Polly Ewell at polly.ewell@barclaycard.co.uk or on +44 (0)7882 088 493 or Julia Madden at julia.madden@barclaycard.co.uk or on +44 (0) 7788 359 181. 

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 insights.uk.barclays/MCI or email contact-MCI@barclays.com.