Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Britons indulged in takeaways, TV subscriptions, home improvements and their pets in 2021, as the pandemic and restrictions on social interaction widespread change in habits.

Data from Barclaycard this year revealed an unbalanced recovery in consumer spending, with many sectors recording double-digit increases compared to 2019, while others, such as hospitality and leisure, declined.

Spend on takeaways and fast food rose 62 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to figures released Friday, based on credit and debit card transactions of nearly half of the country.

The popularity of specialist food and beverage stores, including meal vendors, began to increase, with spending up to 74 percent as people turned to the convenience of local stores and delivery services for their weekly meals.

Overall, consumer spending was 6 percent higher compared to 2019.

During the pandemic, a significant number of households up to four-legged companions for comfort, with spending on veterinarians and pet retailers rising nearly 30 percent over the year.

Money was also plowed into home entertainment with digital content and subscriptions, such as Netflix and Disney +, which recorded a 50 percent increase over the same period.

Spending on home improvements has also increased with do-it-yourself retailers reporting 26 percent growth in 2021 as people were quarantined at home during lockouts.

Clare Bailey, independent retail expert and founder of The Retail Champion, said: “It’s encouraging to see that many categories have enjoyed growth in what has been another turbulent year.”

Britons have also spent more time on sports and extracurricular activities with retailers in these sectors reporting a 22 per cent increase in sales. Purchases of golf clubs increased by 50 percent.

The strong growth rate in some sectors shows that “consumers and businesses are able to adapt to and overcome tremendous hardship and adversity,” said Jose Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard.

While household consumption was the main driver of economic contraction in the first three months of this year, according to official data, it became the biggest contributor to the UK economic recovery in the third quarter.

With many retailers closed and to avoid the risk of infection, many Britons moved online, increasing internet sales by 63 per cent, while retail spending was face-to-face flat.

The strong performance of some sectors contrasted sharply with hospitality and leisure, where spending was 19 percent lower compared to 2019, reflecting the effect of Covid-19 restrictions and voluntary social distance.

This is despite the fact that many have decided to spend their holidays in the UK, as restrictions and quarantine guidelines continue to affect international travel, especially among older consumers, reflecting older groups who were vaccinated earlier.

Holiday spending among those aged 50-64 rose 28 percent in June, compared with a 18.4 percent decline among 16-24-year-olds.

Carvalho said 2021 was still a challenging year as the pandemic continued to hamper the UK economy. “As we look ahead to 2022, the economy will face new challenges from rising household accounts, inflation and uncertainty over the new Covid variant,” he said.

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