The re-emergence of curbs to tamp down on the spread of Covid-19 derailed the vital Christmas trading period for Britain’s hospitality sector, reveal new figures published today.
Brits pulled back sharply on spending at pubs, bars and restaurants over the festive period, according to research undertaken by Barclaycard.
Spending at restaurants sunk over 14 per cent over the last month, while Brits shunned pubs in December.
Barclaycard’s data is a closely watched indicator for consumer spending in the UK as it covers nearly half of the country’s debit and credit card transactions.
Brits were encouraged to work from home and limit socialisting as much as possible over the Christmas period at the beginning of December when the government launched plan B measures to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
As a result, consumers shunned high streets, avoided offices and cancelled festive plans, hitting the country’s services economy hard.
Brits also stayed at home to avoid catching the virus before Christmas Day as the new strain swept across the country.
The Office for National Statistics estimates 45 per cent of hospitality firms experienced an uptick in cancellations over the Christmas period.
Meanwhile, IHS Markit’s latest purchasing managers’ index for the services industry, another closely watched survey, dropped to a 10-month low in December.
Jose Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “December was a mixed picture for retail, hospitality and leisure, as restrictions to tackle the spread of Omicron started to take effect.
“More Brits were either isolating or choosing to stay at home due to the new variant, which hampered face-to-face retailers as well as hospitality and leisure outlets.”
Overall consumer spending actually climbed 12.2 per cent last month compared to December 2019, led higher by Brits diverting money that would have been spent on socalising to luxury food items to enjoy over Christmas.
Essential transactions jumped 13.7 per cent in December, pushed higher by a burst in supermarket spending, Barclaycard said.