Jan 4, 2021
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Fashion, department store spend fell in 2020, but sports, outdoor and discounters boomed

Jan 4, 2021

UK consumer spending not only declined more than 7% in 2020, but it also changed radically as consumer priorities and habits shifted due to lockdowns. That's according to Barclaycard, which said that consumer spending fell 7.1% last year as coronavirus restrictions hampered physical shopping.

Consumers bought more sports clothing last year - Marks & Spencer

And fashion lost out as other sectors rose. General food retailers and specialists within that sector (such as butchers and bakers) saw an uplift. Digital subscriptions also increased as consumers spent more time at home.

Barclaycard said that spending on essential items rose 4.1% last year, driven by supermarket shopping, which saw growth of a massive 15.7%. Online grocery shopping also surged by more than 70%.

But the downside of this is that spending on non-essential items contracted by 11.3% “as social distancing restrictions had a significant impact on high-street retailers and the hospitality sector”.  

This was especially apparent for department stores which fell by 17.2% and clothing also contracted by 15.6% year-on-year.

However, there were some bright spots for non-essential retail. Spending at general retailers and catalogues grew by 40.7% and overall, online general retailers saw growth of 52.5%. Meanwhile physical discount stores saw a 25.4% uplift as more Britons “sought value for money in the purchases they made”.

It's also interesting that support for independent businesses “flourished as many Britons chose to shop locally”. But again, food was the biggest beneficiary here.

There was a boom in home improvements as Britons spruced up their indoor and outdoor living spaces. After non-essential shops reopened in June, spending at home improvement & DIY stores surged, driving an overall growth of 9.8% year-on-year. Furniture stores also enjoyed an overall uplift of 5.3%, as shoppers invested in big-ticket purchases.

But one area relevant to the fashion sector did see strength last year. Sports & outdoor retailers “enjoyed significant growth in 2020, rising 7.2% overall, with the temporary closure of gyms encouraging Britons to purchase workout equipment and seek new ways to exercise inside and outdoors”. 

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