UK Consumer Spending Report

16 March 2021

Barclays Market and Customer Insights unlocks a wealth of customer transaction data and brings it to life so you can take action and shape your strategy.

We can help you keep up-to-date with spending trends, monitor your market position and enhance your understanding of customer behaviour, based on actual customer spending.

Leveraging anonymised data from our 250 million monthly customer transactions in the UK can help you understand who your customers are and how, when, and where they spend.

February 2021

Consumer spending declined by 13.8% in February as lockdown continued, yet some sectors saw record growth

Barclays UK Consumer Spend Report gives you a unique and up to date picture of the nation’s spending habits based on the actual transactions, bringing it to life so you can take action and shape your strategy. 

Our latest report looks at UK Consumer spending patterns to the period 23 January 2021 to 19 February 2021.

Highlights this month:

  • Overall consumer spending contracted by 13.8% in February as National lockdown measures continued.
  • Essential spending increased 5.3%, driven by a 17.4% uplift in spend at the supermarkets and a record year-on-year spend growth of 63.3% at food and drink specialist stores.
  • Non-essential spending fell 22.1%, with most of hospitality and non-essential retail unable to open due to strict lockdown measures.
  • Online retail continued to soar, with year-on-year growth hitting an all-time high of 82.0%, while face-to-face retail spend was down 20.5% year-on-year.

Big picture spend update

Consumer spending in February declined by 13.8% year-on-year as lockdown restrictions remained across the UK. Spending on essential items increased 5.3% year-on-year, driven by a 17.4% uplift in supermarket spending and continued support for online grocery, which at 115.2%, has once again shown exceptional year-on-year growth. Spending at specialist food and drink retailers also surged, with a record year-on-year growth of 63.3% as consumers continued their support for local independent food stores and online food delivery companies. With travel restrictions still in place and cold wintery weather, spending on fuel was down 30.2% year-on-year.

Non-essential spending declined by 22.1% year-on-year, with travel spend down massively and the majority of hospitality and the high-street remaining closed due to National lockdown restrictions. Face-to-face non-essential retail spend declined 58.6%, with 21.0% of consumer confidence survey respondents saying that they are holding off on making purchases until they can visit stores in person.* Support for online continued to gain momentum, growing 82.0% compared to the same period last year. Online spend with general retailers and specialist retailers increased by impressive 100.0% and 95.9% respectively.

*Barclaycard Consumer Confidence Survey, February 2021

Category snapshot: what are UK consumers spending on?

Retail spend increased by 14.0% in February. General retailers and catalogues, which includes marketplaces and retailers selling a range of products, achieved a record 75.7% year-on-year spend growth. The category made up 18.1% of non-essential spend in February 2021 compared to just 8.0% at the same time last year. Household spend also saw higher growth (10.4%) than in January (3.9%). Pharmacy, health and beauty spend declined 32.4%, the steepest drop since June 2020 as hairdressers and beauty salons remained closed. After a sustained period of growth, sports and outdoor retailers saw a second month of declining sales.

Unsurprisingly, hospitality and leisure spend remained in decline at -68.9%, however, there were some bright spots. Consumers continued to spend on fast-food and takeaways, up 30.0%. Spending on resorts and accommodation, a category which incorporates much of the UK ‘staycations’ market, showed some signs of recovery. Spend was still down -60.6%, but this was less severe than the -69.4% year-on-year decline reported in January. Meanwhile, other travel categories, which include more spend on overseas holidays, stayed around the same or performed worse in February as foreign holiday bookings were still considered too risky.

Channel snapshot: how are UK consumers spending?

With lockdown measures still in place, consumers continued to spend online in February, with spend increasing 15.4% year-on-year to take a 56.7% proportion of overall spend. The demand for online grocery services continued as spend increased 115.2%. Online retail spend continued to soar increasing a record 82.0% year-on-year. At the same time, face-to-face retail spend decreased 20.5% year-on-year, unsurprising as non-essential retail stores remained closed due to COVID restrictions. 

Online general retailers performed exceptionally well, with year-on-year spend up 100.0% in February. Online specialist retailers which includes florists, jewellers and toy shops also saw spending rise by 95.9%, as consumers purchased Valentine’s day gifts and lockdown pick me ups. Indeed, almost a quarter(23.0%) said they were more willing to spend on treats for themselves and families this month, compared to last.* As  consumers continued to stay at home, takeaway food delivery apps benefited and online eating and drinking spend grew by 92.6%.

*Barclaycard Consumer Confidence Survey, February 2021

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