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Cold weather saw shoppers avoiding the high street, Barclays data shows

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Storms Isha and Jocelyn meant many shoppers avoided the UK’s high streets, choosing to browse the January sales online instead, the latest figures from Barclays has shown.

The Barclays Consumer Spend report found card spending grew 3.1% year-on-year in January – less than the latest CPIH inflation rate of 4.2%, yet higher than December’s growth of 2.3%. 

Retail, hospitality and leisure spending slowed as UK consumers stayed at home to shelter from the cold weather and save money after a busy festive period. However, pointing to improving optimism, consumers’ confidence in both their household finances and ability to spend within their means reached its highest point in over two years.

Spending on essential items increased 4.2% – noticeably higher than in December (1.8%). Growth in supermarket spending increased to 5.2% – up from 2.8% in December – on par with the growth seen in October (5.2%) and November last year (5.0%), as shoppers returned to their regular routines after the Christmas break.

Colder weather chills high-street spending
More shoppers opted to browse the post-Christmas sales from the comfort of their homes instead of the high-street in January. On Boxing Day itself, face-to-face retail spending was down 10.9% year-on-year, likely due to the cold weather and the arrival of Storm Isha and Storm Jocelyn, as well as several major retailers opting to keep their doors shut. Encouragingly, this was offset by a 10.7% jump in online retail spending.

Looking at January as a whole, 57.6% of all retail shopping (excluding groceries) was online – the highest share of online spending in this category since February 2022. Meanwhile, clothing stores saw a -0.6% decline, though this was a slight improvement compared to December (-2.0%).

Karen Johnson, head of retail at Barclays, said: “After a December filled with festive indulgence, Brits took on a more frugal approach in January, choosing to stay at home more often to save money and shelter from the winter weather.

“This meant that online retail performed strongly, as shoppers browsed the sales from the comfort of their sofas, while demand for digital content and takeaways remained robust, boosted by the release of popular new film and TV releases such as ‘The Traitors’ and ‘Fool Me Once’.

“While this shift in behaviour resulted in subdued growth for hospitality and leisure, it’s encouraging that confidence is improving, with consumers remaining resilient and finding savvy ways to manage their finances.”

‘Staying in for the win’ this Valentines Day
Looking ahead, Barclays predicted that UK consumers could be frugal this Valentine’s Day. Last year, transactions at florists on 13 February were up 450% compared to the daily average for the year. However half of those intending to buy flowers this year say they will save money by buying them from the supermarket instead of a florist. Similarly, a supermarket meal-deal is on the menu for just over two in five of those making a home-cooked meal.

Other cost-saving strategies include spending the evening at home instead of going out (21%), setting a spending limit for gifts (18%), and forgoing presents altogether (16%).

Even with these cutbacks, UK consumers expect to spend slightly more this Valentine’s Day compared to last year (up £6.40), likely due to rising prices. In total, the average love-bird expects to spend £80.30 – with men expecting to spend over 50% more than women (£96.70 compared to £60.70 for women).

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