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Consumer spending grew 16.0 per cent in November as early festive pursuits boosted retail, hospitality and leisure

07 December 2021

  • Spending on non-essential items saw its highest increase since before the pandemic, with growth recorded across many sectors
  • Colder and darker evenings meant nights at home proved popular, with surges in spend on takeaways, subscriptions, and electronics
  • Almost four in 10 Brits who celebrate Christmas are trying to make this year’s festive season more sustainable or environmentally friendly
  • Concerns remain over personal finances, with nine in 10 Brits worried about rising household and energy bills
  • The Barclaycard report combines hundreds of millions of customer transactions with consumer research to provide an in-depth view of UK spending 

Consumer card spending grew 16.0 per cent in November compared to the same period in 2019, with early Christmas shopping and festive pursuits giving a boost to retail, hospitality and leisure. Colder and darker evenings also encouraged Brits to spend more on at-home activities, leading to growth in takeaways, subscriptions, and electronics.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essential items rose 12.5 per cent – slightly less than in October (13.2 per cent), as spending at supermarkets (13.0 per cent) and specialist food and drink stores (64.7 per cent) recorded marginally smaller month-on-month increases (14.2 per cent and 69.2 per cent respectively).

Spending on non-essential items saw its highest growth since before the onset of the pandemic (17.7 per cent). This was driven by uplifts across the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, as Brits enjoyed the start of the festive season, with in-store retail spend (6.7 per cent) seeing a moderate increase on October (6.4 per cent). Clothing also recorded its largest uplift (11.0 per cent) since before the start of the pandemic as shoppers stocked up on warmer items for winter.

With Christmas on the horizon, almost four in 10 (37 per cent) consumers who celebrate it say they are buying gifts earlier than normal this year. This comes as ‘specialist retailers’ – such as gift shops, toy shops and jewellers – recorded a sizeable increase of 21.1 per cent. Other categories to benefit included sports and outdoor retailers (28.8 per cent), as well as pharmacy, health and beauty (16.5 per cent).

However, Brits are still worried about the long term stability of their personal finances, with nine in 10 (88 per cent) concerned about rising household and energy bills, and a similar proportion (87 per cent) concerned about rising inflation.

Prior to the arrival of the new Covid variant, Brits came together to celebrate the arrival of Christmas markets and light displays. Restaurants, though still in decline (-4.3 per cent), saw an improvement on October (-8.3 per cent) and bars, pubs and clubs also saw growth (34.2 per cent).

Meanwhile, as the darker and colder evenings drew in, the nation continued to embrace nights at home in front of the TV, with takeaways and fast food (63.2 per cent), digital content and subscriptions (42.8 per cent) and electronics (17.2 per cent) all seeing strong growth.

This trend is likely to continue as more than one in five (21 per cent) Brits are planning to spend more on takeaways to enjoy nights in over the winter months, while a similar proportion (19 per cent) plans to spend more on home entertainment such as streaming subscriptions and online gaming.

Elsewhere, the travel sector had a small boost in November when compared to October – travel agents (-24.0 per cent) and airlines (-22.1 per cent) saw smaller month-on-month declines (-26.9 per cent and -28.1 per cent respectively) as the US reopened its borders and some Brits made holiday bookings for 2022. It remains to be seen whether this improvement will be short-lived, due to the latest travel restrictions.

Following the COP26 climate conference, environmental concerns are weighing on consumers’ minds this festive season. Almost four in 10 (38 per cent) Brits who celebrate Christmas are trying to make this year’s celebrations more sustainable or environmentally friendly than they have in the past, for example by buying recyclable wrapping paper and second-hand gifts.

Some shoppers are going one step further, with 15 per cent having, or considering, a meat-free Christmas – a figure that increases to 28 per cent for 18-34-year-olds.

While rising energy bills are causing more than a third (36 per cent) of those who celebrate to consider spending less on Christmas festivities, overall household confidence improved slightly month-on-month, rising to 72 per cent (from 70 per cent last month). However, this may be a temporary increase given the arrival of the latest Covid variant, the return of mandatory face coverings and an anticipation by consumers of further restrictions.

Jose Carvalho, Head of Consumer Products, said: “The arrival of Christmas markets and lights across the UK brought some festive cheer to the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in November, while the return of darker nights and colder evenings saw Brits spend more on at-home pursuits such as takeaways and home entertainment.

“As we head into final preparations for the holiday season, it’s unclear how the new Covid variant and potential further restrictions will impact socialising, shopping and consumer confidence. In light of recent changes, we will need to wait and see whether this has an impact on how Brits choose to finish their Christmas shopping this year.”

  Spend Growth Transaction Growth
Essential 12.5% 9.5%
Non Essential 17.7% 22.3%
OVERALL 16.0% 17.0%
Retail 19.8% 14.3%
Clothing 11.0% -1.5%
Grocery 17.0% 13.0%
Supermarkets 13.0% 6.8%
Food & Drink Specialist 64.7% 64.8%
Household 20.0% 10.7%
Home Improvements & DIY 21.3% 13.1%
Electronics 17.2% 9.8%
Furniture Stores 20.6% 6.3%
General Retailers 28.7% 26.4%
General Retailers & Catalogues 41.5% 40.9%
Department Stores -0.1% -3.5%
Discount Stores 26.2% 12.0%
Specialist Retailers 21.0% 10.0%
Pharmacy, Health & Beauty 16.5% 8.4%
Sports & Outdoor 28.8% 13.5%
Other Specialist Retailers 21.1% 10.8%
Hospitality & Leisure 13.5% 22.6%
Digital Content & Subscription 42.8% 40.2%
Eating & Drinking 38.2% 26.2%
Restaurants -4.3% -17.5%
Bars, Pubs & Clubs 34.2% 38.9%
Takeaways and Fast Food 63.2% 34.6%
Other Food & Drink 39.1% 22.5%
Entertainment 22.1% 36.1%
Hotels, Resorts & Accomodation 9.5% 9.2%
Travel -19.4% -1.4%
Travel Agents -24.0% -16.3%
Airlines -22.1% -21.9%
Public Transport -19.9% -3.0%
Other Travel -3.9% 7.2%
Other 8.7% 13.5%
Fuel 7.7% 2.3%
Motoring 3.9% 25.8%
Other Services 12.1% 25.3%
Online 29.7% 40.7%
F2F 6.8% 9.0%

Notes to editors

We have changed the way we produce our monthly Consumer Spending Index. Starting in March, all calculations moved to a two-year comparison (i.e. comparing November 2021 against November 2019), instead of a year-on-year comparison. This includes any prior period comparisons included in the release (e.g. comparing July 2020 to July 2018), to ensure that all comparisons are like-for-like. This provides a more realistic view of the UK’s long-term recovery from the impact of coronavirus, and of whether spending has returned to pre-pandemic levels.  

Established in 2014, Barclaycard issues a monthly press release commenting on consumer spending trends.

Barclaycard sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, which provides us with unique insight into UK consumer spending. The monthly spending data in this press release is based on Barclaycard credit card and Barclays debit card transactions, and is analysed by the Barclays Market and Customer Insights team. It relates to the period 23rd October to 19th November. It is compared with 26th October to 22nd November 2019.

The consumer confidence survey in this press release was carried out between 19th – 22nd November 2021 by Longitude Research on behalf of Barclaycard. There were 2,000 respondents, providing a representative sample of UK consumers by age, gender, region, and income group.

For more information, please contact please contact Oliver Stevenson at oliver.stevenson@barclaycard.co.uk  or on +44 (0)7880 184 177 or Rebecca Butler at rebecca.butler@barclaycard.co.uk or +44 (0)7881 318 767.

About Barclaycard

Barclaycard, part of Barclays Bank PLC, is a leading global payment business that helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and take payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit. In the UK we process nearly £1 in every £3 spent using credit and debit cards, and in 2020 we processed over £267bn in transactions globally. We also partner with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit.


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About Barclays Market and Customer Insights

Barclays Market and Customer Insights helps businesses keep up to date with spending trends, monitors their market position and enhances their understanding of customer behaviour, based on actual customer spending. Visit insights.uk.barclays/MCI or email contact-MCI@barclays.com.