Oct 13, 2020
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Fashion rises in latest Barclaycard consumer spending figures

Oct 13, 2020

The most extreme back-to-school season ever, plus higher food and home improvement sales drove UK consumer spending higher last month, Barclaycard said on Tuesday.

Consumers increased their clothing purchases last month

Spending on non-essentials rose 0.6%, which was the first increase since February, with clothing seeing 4.2% value growth on the back of that back-to-school rise and also shoppers investing in winter wardrobes. Transaction numbers rose 0.7% for clothing.

That was a rare piece of good news for the fashion sector coming after months in which clothing sales have been anaemic at best and sometimes disastrous. In August, clothing sales had also risen, but only by a very tiny 0.3%.

The Barclaycard report uses hundreds of millions of customer transactions, based on the fact that the company processes nearly half of the UK's credit and debit card transactions. It combines this with additional consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending.

Importantly, looking at the high-street, face-to-face spending was down only 1.9% year-on-year. This was a notable improvement on August’s 6.7% drop, suggesting Britons are becoming more comfortable visiting physical shops. 

As mentioned, clothing was up and the return to schools that had been all-but empty since March will have been a big factor in the rise.

But Barclaycard said that spending at department stores fell by 0.2% and on a volume basis, it was down 8.8%. That said, other retailers were much more buoyant.

General retailers/catalogues, for instance, saw a 44.2% value rise and a 48.7% volume increase. Discount stores rose 31.7% by value and 13.3% by volume. Sports/outdoor shops were up 30.2% by value and 14.5% by volume. And pharmacy, health & beauty rose 9.4% by value and 0.2% by volume.

Also good news for the fashion sector was that spending at bars and pubs saw a 9% rise – the first increase since February – as some level of social life returned with the suggestion that consumers might want to buy more clothes as a result. But it wasn't all good on that front as restaurant spending declined 18.7%, although that's a marked improvement on the 39.1% fall seen during August.

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