Nov 8, 2022
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Barclaycard and BRC reports show weak October sales - and likely tough Xmas season

Nov 8, 2022

Consumer card spending grew 3.5% last month but that was well below the rate of inflation so real purchases went into reverse, the latest Barclaycard spending report said on Tuesday.

Photo: Pexels/Public domain

And the regular BRC/KPMG monthly report on the same day said that retail sales during October grew by just over 1% in value year on year. This increase was “driven by inflationary pressures and does not tell the true picture of sales volumes dropping as consumers purchase fewer products per shop”.

The BRC added that sales across almost every category, both online and in-store, fell year on year as consumers adjusted to shrinking household incomes.

Meanwhile, Barclaycard's October spend figure was higher than the 1.8% rise in September, but with consumer price inflation running at 8.8%, it’s clear that the cost of living crisis is continuing to affect consumer spending decisions.

Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions, said spending on essential items – such as fuel and groceries – increased 5.7% year-on-year, more than September’s 3.3% rise, which reflects the impact of higher inflation rather than consumers’ desire to buy more.

Spending on non-essential items may have been higher than the previous month’s 1% increase, but being up just 2.5% wasn't much of an achievement, especially given that inflation figure.

Clothing saw a noticeably smaller decline (-0.5%) than in September (-4.1%), as did department stores (-1.% versus -3.5% the previous month). But the less-weak-than-expected figures can be traced back to September last year, which had been a particularly strong month for clothing as lockdowns eased. That strength caused a reaction the following month and October 2021 was unimpressive. This means October 2022 was up against easy comparisons and look better than they otherwise would have done.

Meanwhile, pharmacy, health & beauty stores were a bright spot, growing 3.8% in October – considerably higher than the previous month (+0.8%) – suggesting that consumers are still keen to purchase items such as make-up and toiletries, even while spending more nights at home.

Barclaycard said some “insperience” categories saw a boost in October, including digital content and subscriptions and takeaways and fast food, which grew 4.8% and 11.7% respectively. This comes as half of consumers are swapping nights out for evenings in to save money this autumn and winter.

That's likely to dent sales of going-out fashion items, although there could be an upside with potentially higher sales of staying-warm-at-home pieces, such as knits and loungewear.

And what about the prospects for the months ahead? Barclaycard research showed that 48% of consumers are planning to cut down on Christmas purchases to save money this year. Out of that 48%, as many as 59% will be spending less on gifts for family and friends, 44% will cut back on festive food and drink, and 42% will curb their spending on Christmas parties and socialising.

And 21% plan to set a spending limit with their friends and family for gift purchases while a similar proportion (19%) have started their Christmas shopping earlier this year to spread the cost. 

Some 10% of shoppers plan to buy more secondhand/pre-loved items to give as presents this year.

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