Tuesday 11 May 2021 6:15 am

Consumer spending grew in April as high streets and hospitality reopened

Consumer spending was up 0.4 per cent higher last month than in April 2019, as Brits rushed out to take advantage of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Last month the first major move away from a full lockdown took place, with shoppers finally allowed to visit non-essential retail stores, and hospitality venues – so long as they stayed outside.

The move provided a boost to the economy, with spending up overall.

Face-to-face spending at food & drink specialist stores – including butchers, bakeries and greengrocers – was one of the month’s biggest winners, with spending rocketed nearly 64 per cent compared to 2019, according to the latest data from Barclays.

But while many hospitality venues reopened in England, the industry’s limitations on outdoor dining coupled with a relatively chilly April meant there was only a moderate improvement in spending at bars and pubs (-67.2 per cent) and restaurants (-74.4 per cent) compared to March, which saw respective declines of 94.8 per cent and 83.1 per cent versus 2019.

Takeaways and fast food continued to prove the most popular dining option, with this category seeing its growth of nearly 60 per cent on the same time in 2019.

Spending in the hospitality sector should improve with the potential further easing of restrictions next week, Barclays said, with a third (33 per cent) of people saying they are willing to spend extra money on entertainment and leisure activities such as drinks or meals out compared to before the pandemic.

Raheel Ahmed, Head of Consumer Products, said: “The easing of restrictions provided a promising boost to a number of sectors in April, with consumer spending back in growth and confidence in the UK economy at its highest level since before the onset of the pandemic.

“Younger shoppers have been spending more on clothing as they update their wardrobes in anticipation of socialising and making post-lockdown plans, while older consumers have boosted spending on UK accommodation and resorts, as they organise family staycations.

“Whilst there was a slight improvement in spending at pubs & bars and restaurants, the industry-wide restrictions on outdoor seating, sporadic colder weather and the rule of six all clearly dampened that recovery this month.”

Spending on essential items rose 10.1 per cent compared to April 2019, the highest growth since August 2020. This was boosted by supermarket shopping, which saw an 18.5 per cent increase overall.

Meanwhile, fuel spend saw less of a decline, dropping 8.1 per cent compared to a 20.1 per cent decline in March, in a sign that Brits were travelling more often to see friends and family. 

The specialist retail category grew 9.3 per cent overall, with vets and pet stores seeing the strongest growth (32.4 per cent) compared to two years ago.

Sports and outdoor retailers were another bright spot as gyms and golf courses re-opened in England and encouraged sports fans to spend more time exercising and outside. The category rose 26.2 per cent overall, with the biggest increase seen in spending among 16 to 24-year olds (37.1 per cent).

The travel industry continued to be hit hard by ongoing international travel restrictions, with airlines and travel agents seeing steep declines of 82.1 per cent and 82.0 per cent respectively.

However, resorts and accommodation continued to see improvement, as the category saw positive growth of 1.6 per cent as many Brits considered their holidays in the UK this summer.