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Consumer card spending grew 12.2 per cent in December but the impact of Omicron hindered some final Christmas preparations

  • Spending on essential items grew 13.7 per cent, boosted by supermarket shopping and fuel spend
  • Yet some sectors, including clothing and department stores, saw slower growth due to concerns around the rise of Covid-19
  • The hospitality sector also took a hit as festive gatherings were cancelled, and more Brits isolated or chose to stay at home
  • The wider economic picture is encouraging more cautious discretionary spending, as 43 per cent of Brits expect rising inflation to affect their household budgeting
  • 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 increased 12.2 per cent in December compared to the same period in 2019, as Brits finished their final preparations for Christmas. However, the impact of restrictions and fears over the Omicron variant began to take effect across the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essential items grew 13.7 per cent, largely driven by a 13.9 per cent rise in supermarket shopping, as consumers stocked up on festive food and drink.

Fuel spend also rose by 11.8 per cent, compared to 8.5 per cent in November – driven by rising fuel prices and many travelling to see friends and family over the festive period.

Spending on non-essential items increased at a slower rate of 11.5 per cent in December, compared to November’s 18.3 per cent growth. This is perhaps due to Brits beginning their Christmas shopping earlier in the year, as well as some shoppers opting to avoid the high-street due to concerns around the spread of Omicron.

Clothing saw noticeably smaller growth (8.8 per cent) than November (13.4 per cent), as cancelled Christmas parties and social events meant shoppers cut back their spending on new outfits. Department stores were also affected, experiencing a -7.1 per cent decline when compared to 2019.

Yet, inevitably it was hospitality and leisure sectors that were among the hardest hit as a result of new restrictions. Spending at restaurants saw a sharper decline of -14.1 per cent, compared to -3.5 per cent in November, while bars, pubs and clubs saw noticeably smaller growth of 21.2 per cent compared to 35.0 per cent the previous month.

Entertainment saw a sizeable month-on-month decrease, rising just 0.7 per cent in December compared to 22.8 per cent in November. However, among 16-24-year-olds, spending in this category grew 23.3 per cent, as younger consumers visited festive attractions, such as Christmas markets and fairs.

Travel had a challenging month, with hotels, resorts and accommodation returning to decline (-1.9 per cent) for the first time since May 2021, as Brits put staycation plans on hold. Meanwhile, the reintroduction of overseas travel restrictions and testing requirements meant that travel agents (-45.4 per cent) and airlines (-38.8 per cent) saw sharper contractions compared to November (-23.2 per cent and -22.7 per cent respectively).

On a brighter note, as more time was spent at home, Brits turned once again to sprucing up their living spaces. Furniture, as well as home improvement and DIY stores, remained steady at 22.4 per cent and 21.5 per cent growth respectively, compared to 22.3 per cent and 22.5 per cent in November.

The wider economic picture is encouraging consumers to be more cautious with their discretionary spending, as 43 per cent suggest they expect rising inflation to affect their household budgeting. However, some have a more positive outlook, as 36 per cent say they expect the British public and businesses to adapt and thrive, despite the likely challenges of the year ahead.

New Year’s resolutions are providing another source of optimism, with nearly a fifth (19 per cent) expecting to spend extra money this year to achieve their goals – a figure that rises to 28 per cent for 18-34-year-olds. Personal fitness and wellness, holidays abroad and training and gym equipment for the home are the categories the nation is most keen to increase their spending on.

Sustainability also remains front of mind for many, with two fifths (41 per cent) planning to make changes in 2022 because they’ve become more conscious of their personal impact on the environment, with half (50 per cent) of these Brits planning to buy fewer plastic goods and 41 per cent buying less overall to help reduce their carbon footprint.

Jose Carvalho, Head of Consumer Products at Barclaycard, said: “While consumer card spending levels are up on 2019, December was a mixed picture for retail, hospitality and leisure, as restrictions to tackle the spread of Omicron started to take effect. More Brits were either isolating or choosing to stay at home due to the new variant, which hampered face-to-face retailers as well as hospitality and leisure outlets.

“However, there were some bright spots. Spending on essential items grew strongly as shoppers filled their trolleys with food and drink and celebrated the festive period with family and friends. As we all spent more time at home, many used this as an opportunity to spruce up their living space in time for Christmas. It’s also encouraging to see consumers’ widespread intentions to spend more in 2022 to achieve New Year’s resolutions.”

  Spend Growth Transaction Growth
Essential 13.7% 8.2%
Non Essential 11.5% 16.6%
OVERALL 12.2% 13.3%
Retail 15.7% 11.3%
Clothing 8.8% -1.7%
Grocery 17.2% 11.8%
Supermarkets 13.9% 6.1%
Food & Drink Specialist 55.3% 59.9%
Household 17.3% 11.0%
Home Improvements & DIY 21.5% 14.4%
Electronics 9.4% 7.7%
Furniture Stores 22.4% 8.9%
General Retailers 16.2% 16.1%
General Retailers & Catalogues 25.3% 26.6%
Department Stores -7.1% -11.1%
Discount Stores 23.7% 10.1%
Specialist Retailers 15.3% 7.5%
Pharmacy, Health & Beauty 12.3% 4.2%
Sports & Outdoor 22.0% 10.0%
Other Specialist Retailers 14.7% 10.0%
Hospitality & Leisure 3.8% 16.7%
Digital Content & Subscription 41.0% 39.0%
Eating & Drinking 29.2% 20.3%
Restaurants -14.1% -25.1%
Bars, Pubs & Clubs 21.2% 26.4%
Takeaways and Fast Food 62.6% 32.4%
Other Food & Drink 28.1% 16.8%
Entertainment 0.7% 18.8%
Hotels, Resorts & Accomodation -1.9% -2.2%
Travel -33.5% -8.4%
Travel Agents -45.4% -35.1%
Airlines -38.8% -34.2%
Public Transport -28.1% -10.3%
Other Travel -9.5% 1.6%
Other 10.1% 14.9%
Fuel 11.8% 3.6%
Motoring 0.3% 23.1%
Other Services 14.6% 29.2%
Online 26.2% 37.6%
F2F 3.3% 4.9%


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 December 2021 against December 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 20th November to 24th December. It is compared with 20th November to 24th December 2019.

The consumer confidence survey in this press release was carried out between 17th – 20th December 2021 by Longitude Research on behalf of Barclaycard. There were 2,001 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.