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Britons have been busy dusting off cobwebs from the UK economy in May, fueling a 7.6% rise in consumer spending as people flocked outdoors to shop, sun and socialize with gusto.

Coinciding with a relaxation of lockdown, an 11.4% resurgence in essential spending was led by the supermarket sector, which rose 17.7%, as well as local butchers and convenience stores, which jumped 69.3% compared to the same period a year before, according to data from Barclaycard.

Consumers rediscover their spending mojo

  • Pent-up demand for clothing and fashion saw the sector jump 8.5% as people ditched their pajamas and looked to socialize in style. Similarly, health and beauty outlets witnessed a 17.8% rebound as social pressures to keep up appearances returned.

  • Despite unsettled weather, many leapt at the chance to rediscover the great outdoors with sports and equipment retailers surging 47%.

  • Britain’s battered and bruised hospitality sector also showed the first signs of stemming the bleed as restrictions began to lift from May 17, with restaurants dropping 53.2% while pubs and bars slid by 19.4% – catastrophic figures in normal times, but a relative improvement in April when the equivalent declines stood at 74.4% and 67.2% respectively.

  • A staycation bonanza has provided a lifeline to resorts and short-stay accommodation, as families shun trips abroad in favor of short-haul vacations, growing the sector by 25.5%.

Barclaycard tout a broad-based consumer recovery

  • Underlying all of these positive trends is a general uptick in consumer confidence in household finances as well as the wider economy, with sentiment standing at 72 and 35% respectively – up from 67 and 20% the year before.

  • Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, observed: “May was a positive month for a range of categories, with the nation clearly determined to show support for retailers and local businesses. 

  • “While international holidays continue to be hampered by restrictions, staycations in the UK are providing a welcome boost to the travel sector, as May saw more holidaymakers, particularly in the older age groups, book or embark on trips. With summer – and hopefully more of this warmer weather – on the way, we hope to see these positive trends continue as Brits make the most of their newfound freedoms.”

  • This marks a sharp turnaround from January when UK consumer spend was hit by the largest decline since June 2020.

The methodology underlying the stats

  • The spending data is compiled for Barclaycard’s monthly Consumer Spending Index, which from March has switched from a one-year comparison to a two-year look back to provide a more realistic view of the pandemic recovery.

  • The consumer confidence survey drew upon 2,001 representative respondents by Longitude Research between May 21-24.