Thursday 29 April 2021 12:01 am

Man’s best friend: Brits put a premium on pets even as household spend slips

Not even lockdown could put an end to the old adage ‘Dogs are a man’s best friend’. In the last three months spending on pets surged as Brits prioritised emotional connections. 

Nationwide’s latest quarterly spending report reveals the biggest increases in spending between January and March have been on dating sites, gardening and pet-related costs. 

The report, which is based on more than 450m transactions made between January and March, shows spending on pets saw the biggest increase in essential spend. Brits spent a staggering £116.8m on pets in the first quarter, a 22 per cent increase on the same period last year. 

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It can largely be attributed to greater pet ownership as data from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association shows 3.2m households have bought a pet since the start of the pandemic. 

The early lockdown trend of DIY and house plants continued into 2021 with a 53 per cent increase in spending on gardening to £62.4m. DIY spend also increased, albeit by a smaller 16 per cent, as Brits prepared for a third lockdown. 

“The difference a year makes to how and where we spend our money is staggering. The impact of the pandemic is clearly evident, to the point it has reversed a trend where both essential and discretionary continued to rise,” Mark Nalder, Nationwide’s head of payments said. 

“Life in lockdown has taught us that our connections are extremely important. Many of us have invested our time in our families, gardens and pets, while others are keen to embrace the relaxing of restrictions as they look to start new relationships after a long period of time alone,” he added. 

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The number of transactions related to online dating increased 46 per cnet year-on-year, while total spend is up by more than a third to £3.6m. 

Despite a rise in this so-called emotional spending, overall household spend remains down on the previous year. Essential spend fell 3.4 per cent year-on-year while non-essential spending has plummeted 14.9 per cent. 

Unsurprisingly as lockdown measures continued across the globe, travel saw some of the biggest decreases in spend in the first quarter. 

Spend on public transport and taxis plunged 67 per cent to £85.3m with the average spend per transaction over the period £7.86 compared to £10.77 last year. 

Similarly the amount spent on motoring fell by 26 per cent to £461.9m, while fuel and electric charging dropped 24 per cent to £477.3m.