food subscripton box

‘Subscription Society’ surges as the average Brit spends £620 a year on sign-up services

  • Britain’s ‘super subscribers’ have driven a 23 per cent increase in the economy in the last 12 months
  • 81 per cent of UK households are signed-up to at least one subscription, rising from 65 per cent last year
  • Entertainment services remain the firm favourite, with savvy Brits saving a yearly £290 by taking advantage sign-up discounts
  • Cheese, musical instruments, and underwear are among the more novel subscriptions popular with Brits

Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, new research reveals the UK remains a nation of ‘Super Subscribers’, with those signed-up spending £620 per year on subscriptions – up 12 per cent, from £552, just 12 months ago*.

The research from Barclaycard Payments, which processes nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, found that digital and ‘deliver to door’ products and services are now such an integral part of Brits’ daily lives that eight in 10 UK households are signed up to at least one subscription service – up 25 per cent year-on-year.

As a result, UK retailers value the ‘subscription economy’ as now worth £395m**; up 23 per cent from 12 months ago, when Barclaycard Payments last conducted the research.

While increasingly profitable for retailers, shoppers are making savings too. Nearly half (48 per cent) of those signed-up to subscriptions say they save money as a result, averaging £290 per year, by taking advantage of introductory discounts on offer. The savings are also felt elsewhere, with 45 per cent claiming their subscriptions discourage them from buying products unnecessarily.

Entertainment platforms, such as music and film streaming services, remain the firm favourite (46 per cent), with food/meal boxes (16 per cent), technology (14 per cent) and beauty or grooming services (12 per cent) following.

The increase in popularity, of subscription boxes especially, has seen retailers expand into providing a greater range of bespoke and customisable offerings. A range of the more novel subscriptions Brits are signing-up to on a regular basis include deliveries of cheese (8 per cent), musical instruments (8 per cent) and underwear (7 per cent).

According to the Barclaycard Payments research, Brits are most likely to take out subscription services for products in the following categories:

Entertainment platforms

46 per cent

Food/meal boxes

16 per cent


14 per cent

Beauty or grooming

12 per cent


11 per cent


11 per cent


11 per cent


11 per cent

Restaurant meal kits

9 per cent


9 per cent

A personal touch

Some of the additional benefits shoppers look for from subscription services include  access to exclusive content (57 per cent) and product and service recommendations tailored to their tastes (52 per cent). In fact, two fifths (40 per cent) of subscription users say they rely on service providers to make decisions for them, in preference of searching through the “infinite” choices often available, such as on streaming platforms.

Convenience is key

Although nearly half (45 per cent) of Brits relied on the convenience of subscriptions during lockdown, the trend is certainly here to stay with 40 per cent planning to sign-up to more services even though restrictions have eased.

Half (50 per cent) find that subscriptions actually help them to keep their finances organised, and 55 per cent value the time saved thanks to regular deliveries.

Good value also plays a part in our eagerness to sign-up: over half (54 per cent) of shoppers cite this as the most important benefit they look for in subscriptions, with 45 per cent regularly comparing their services to make sure they’re getting a good deal.

Subscriptions without strings

Flexible contracts (36 per cent) and straightforward opt-out processes (33 per cent) are also important to consumers. Additionally, 41 per cent of those who don’t have any subscriptions suggest that being locked into a contract was their main deterrence, preferring a no-strings-attached approach.

The gift that keeps on giving

One in four (43 per cent) would buy a loved-one a subscription service for Christmas or a birthday, with 36 per cent already planning to include them when shopping for gifts going forward.

Marc Pettican, President of Barclaycard Payments, said: “Whether it’s entertainment, meal boxes, beauty products, or even musical instruments, subscriptions have become a consumer staple in British life. While lockdown certainly provided a catalyst for their growth, our data shows the popularity of digital and direct-to-door sign-up services is here to stay.

“The convenience, personal touch and value for money subscriptions provide means they have longevity, especially as we adjust to life and new routines as result of the pandemic. As the subscription economy continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how the range of sign-up products and services retailers offer in this way expands too.”

Notes to editors

For more information please contact Polly Ewell on 07882 088 493 or  

*Consumer figures are taken from a survey conducted from 13 – 16July 2021 by One Poll on behalf of Barclaycard Payments, of over 2,000 UK nationally representative adults in the UK..

**Retailer figures are taken from a survey conducted in 5th – 13th July 2021 by Opinium on behalf of Barclaycard Payments, of over 400 senior decision-makers (director level and above) in retail businesses. The combined estimate value of subscriptions in the UK from the retailers surveyed, who currently sell subscription services in 2021, is £395,327,750. The equivalent value in 2020 was £322,597,500.

Yearly comparison calculated by comparing findings from Barclaycard Payments conducted in June 2020 with those obtained in July 2021.

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 2020 we processed over £267bn 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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