Consumer spending suffers weakest start since 2012

The latest Visa UK Consumer Spending Index data revealed a reduction in overall consumer spending in February, calling it the weakest start to the year since 2012.

On an annual basis expenditure declined by 1.1%, similar to the 1.2% reduction seen at the start of 2018. Overall, household spending has now fallen for nine months in a row.

The drop in spending was attributed to the high street, with face-to-face expenditure down by 2.5% compared to last year. This marked the weakest rate of reduction since last June. Online spending increased slightly, up by 0.2%,rising at the slowest pace for 10 months in February.

Across the eight spending categories, half showed a decline. recreation and culture noted the quickest decline overall, down 6.1% year-on-year. This was the steepest reduction in this category since April 2010. Spending also fell across transport and communication which was down by 3.5%.

The strongest rise in spending was seen by the hotels, restaurants and bars category, up by 4.4%, while miscellaneous goods and services (including health, beauty and jewellery) was up by 4%.

Food, beverages and tobacco saw an increase of 0.1%, while household goods and clothing and footwear dropped by 1.1% and 1.6% respectively.

Mark Antipof, chief commercial officer at Visa, said: “Britons have been in belt-tightening mode since last summer. February’s cold snap certainly didn’t alleviate this situation, particularly when we shine a spotlight on high street spending, and recreation and culture in particular, which saw its biggest decline since April 2010.

“As we look ahead into March, consumer spending is at risk of posting one of the worst Q1 results on record. Retailers will no doubt be hoping that the milder weather will put a spring in shoppers’ steps.”

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