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UK Consumer Spending Report

UK Consumer Spending Report

View our latest insights on how spending patterns are changing across the UK.

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 for the 20th April 2024 to 17th May 2024.

May key insights

Overall consumer spending remained low in May, with consumers reducing non-essential spending in light of the recent hikes on household bills. Nonetheless, consumers remain optimistic, with many planning to spend more when the weather improves.

Rohan Kumar

Head of Client Insights, Barclays

Consumer card spending grew 1.0% in May 2024, significantly less than the latest CPIH* inflation rate of 3.0%.
Essential spending

Essential card spending grew by 1.6% in May 2024 when compared to this time last year. This is the lowest year-on-year growth since August 2023 (1.0%) as spend growth in Grocery, an Essential spend category, fell to its lowest level (0.3%) since June 2022 (-0.8%).

Non-Essential spending

Non-Essential card spending grew by 0.7% in May 2024. This is the lowest year-on-year growth since February 2021 (-17.5%), as the combination of May’s wet weather, and consumer concerns over rising household bills, resulted in discretionary spend cutbacks.

Utilities/Fuel

Fuel spend growth was -1.9% in May 2024, as we compare to a period where fuel prices were higher due the invasion of Ukraine this time last year. However, the spend growth is higher than it was in April 2024 (-4.8%), as fuel prices slightly increased in May.

Consumers reduce discretionary spending, whilst some categories show signs of recovery

Overall Retail spending fell -0.4% in May 2024 when compared to this time last year. This is the lowest year-on-year growth since September 2022 (-2.0%), as the rainy weather continued to deter shoppers from visiting the high-street, resulting in a slowdown in face-to-face retail (excluding groceries) and clothing sales. However, categories such as Home Improvements & DIY, though still in decline, showed signs of recovery this month, with consumers likely capitalising on the early May bank holiday weekend to spruce up their living spaces. This improvement may continue over the coming months, particularly as 18% of the consumers who plan to spend more when the weather warms up this summer, cited that they want to invest in home improvements and renovations.**

Spend in the overall Hospitality & Leisure sector also saw a smaller uplift in growth, at 2.7% in May 2024 compared to April 2024 (4.1%), as consumers reined in discretionary spending and cut back spending on eating out in May. This was evident in the Takeaways and Fast Food category, with the category recording its first decline (-0.2%) since May 2020 (-21.5%). However, consumers are looking forward to the summer months, with many planning to spend more on food and drink as the weather improves.**

Hospitality and Leisure

Consumers cut back spending on Takeaways and Fast Food

Spend on Takeaways and Fast Food decreased by -0.2% in May 2024, marking the first negative month of year-on-year growth in this category since May 2020 (-21.5%). This comes as 44% of consumers say they are reducing their discretionary spending, citing ordering takeaways (54%) as their number one cutback**.

53% of these consumers are also cutting back on eating out at Restaurants, with spending in this category seeing an even greater decline in year-on-year spend growth in May 2024 (-15.7%) than in April 2024 (-13.1%).

On a more positive note however, 28% of consumers say they will spend more when the weather improves this summer, a figure which rises to 39% for 18 to 34 year-olds. In particular, 39% of these consumers plan to spend more on food and drink for picnics, whilst 34% want to splash out more on drinking and dining al fresco at pubs and restaurants**.

Man standing at dispensers

Consumers reined in discretionary spending in May, with cutbacks seen in food and drink spending. However, it is hoped that spending will rebound in the coming months, with events such as the Euros, Wimbledon, and Taylor Swift's 'Eras Tour' on the horizon.

Rich Robinson

Head of Hospitality and Leisure, Barclays Corporate Banking

Modest spend growth across Travel and Entertainment

Spend in the overall Travel sector increased by 4.7% in May 2024, a decline compared to April 2024 (5.8%). In particular, Airlines saw their smallest uplift (5.6%) since July 2021 (-13.3%), while spend growth at Travel Agents was as its lowest level (4.3%) since August 2023 (3.7%). The lower spend uplift across Travel in May is likely due to consumers having already booked their 2024 getaways earlier in the year.

Similarly, Entertainment spending, typically boosted by the release of summer blockbusters, saw a modest 3.0% increase in May 2024. This comes as 30% of consumers say they plan to go to the cinema less, because this summer’s blockbusters are less exciting than they have been in previous years.**

5.6% ^ - Spend at Airlines increased by 5.6% versus May last year, the lowest level of year-on-year growth since July 2021.

Retail

The weather continues to dampen Retail sales

Overall Retail spending declined by -0.4% in May 2024, the lowest year-on-year growth since September 2022 (-2.0%). This comes as the rain continued to cast a cloud over the high-street with face-to-face retail (excluding groceries) and clothing sales dropping by -2.6% and -1.0% respectively.

This also comes as out of the consumers (52%) who are cutting back on discretionary spending, 44% say they are limiting purchases of new clothes and accessories. Furthermore, 41% plan to re-wear more of their old summer clothes this year, whilst 29% are cutting back on shopping for their summer wardrobe due to cost-of-living concerns.**

However, some categories, though still in decline, showed signs of recovery this month. Furniture stores saw their smallest decrease (-2.3%) since August 2023(-2.0%), while Home Improvement & DIY stores had their best performance (-5.4%) since October 2023 (-7.8%). This was likely boosted by consumers capitalising on the early May bank holiday weekend to spruce up their living spaces. 

A lady holding a paper bag

Overall Retail spend growth remained low in May, as the wet weather continued to hamper the high-street. However, the outlook for the coming months remains positive, with consumers planning to spend more as the weather improves.

Karen Johnson

Head of Retail and Wholesale, Barclays Corporate Banking

Lower food price inflation reduces Supermarket spend growth

Spend growth at Supermarkets increased by 0.3% in May 2024, the lowest year-on-year growth since June 2022 (-0.8%), as food price inflation fell to its lowest annual rate (2.9%) since 2021. The downturn in supermarket shopping is also partly due to the comparison with May 2023, when spending on groceries surged due to Coronation bank holiday street parties and soaring food price inflation.

Meanwhile, Pharmacy, Health & Beauty stores had another positive month, with spend rising by 5.0% in May 2024. This is due to several factors including the “lipstick effect”, a growing interest in personal wellness, and the influence of viral makeup and skincare videos.

0.3% ^ - Spend growth at Supermarkets increased by 0.3% in May 2024, the lowest year-on-year growth since June 2022.

Barclays Market and Customer Insights

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.

Contact the Barclays Market and Customer Insights team

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