May 13, 2020
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UK spending plunged in April say BRC and Barclaycard

May 13, 2020

Two UK consumer spending reports on Wednesday showed just how big a hit British retail — and other spending areas — have taken in recent weeks. They highlighted the impact of the lockdown and ongoing social distancing measures even where people were allowed out.

Shuttered shops meant lower spend in the UK last month

Barclaycard said total spending dropped 36.5% year-on-year in April. And it said even ‘essential’ spend declined 7.5%. Meanwhile, spending on non-essentials plummeted 47.7%. The Barclaycard report usually includes areas such as travel, entertainment and dining out, but all these were off the agenda last month.

The few spending areas that increased illustrated how consumer priorities have shifted. Supermarkets climbed 14.3% as Britons prepared more meals at home. Specialist food and drink stores — including off licences, greengrocers and independent convenience stores — saw a strong month (+37.7%) as shoppers continued to support local businesses.

And online spend in home improvement and DIY increased by 26.5% — accounting for 86.1% of purchases. Fashion was nowhere to be seen in the report.

Meanwhile, in a separate report purely focused on retail spending, the British Retail Consortium and KPMG said retail sales fell almost a fifth with a plunge of 19.1%.

With nearly 10 million Britons either on furlough or having lost their jobs, consumers were cautious about what they spent. 

The fall was the biggest since BRC records began in 1995, although the proportion of goods bought online understandably increased.

While there have been reports that loungewear, kidswear and activewear has proved popular, the big spikes were seen outside of the fashion arena. Consumers were buying
games consoles, bicycles, office equipment, and haberdashery (the latter as they turned to activities such as sewing and knitting, with many people working on home-made protective masks).

The purchase of non-food items in stores fell by 36% overall, with fashion likely to have made up a big chunk of that figure.

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