Consumer spending rose by 7.6% in May compared to the same period in 2019, the highest level of growth since coronavirus restrictions began.
According to new data from Barclaycard, spending on essential items grew 11.4% compared to May 2019, the sharpest increase since before the onset of the pandemic.
This was largely bolstered by supermarket shopping which rose by 17.7%, as well as face-to-face spending at local food and drink specialist retailers, such as butchers, off-licenses and independent convenience stores, which rose by 69.3%.
Despite wet weather in early May, overall spending on non-essential items rose 5.8% compared to the same period in 2019, while face-to-face spending at non-essential retailers grew 8.0%.
Spending on clothing rose by 8.5% while spending in department stores was up 8.6% in the period. While in-store clothes shopping was still down against the same period in 2019 (-6.1%), this was a “significantly smaller” decline than last month (-46.9 %.
Consumers also spent more on beauty products and treatments, with pharmacy, health and beauty stores seeing a 17.8%, a significant improvement on the growth recorded last month (3.7%).
Other specialist retailers, such as gift shops, toy shops and jewellers, saw a growth of 27.2%, over four times higher than last month’s increase of 6.4%, which Barclaycard suggests is perhaps a sign that consumers are buying more presents for reunions and celebrations such as weddings, birthdays and baby showers.
In addition, sports and outdoor retailers reported strong growth during the month as consumers “embraced more active lifestyles”, with a 47.0% uplift in the category versus 26.2% growth last month.
Raheel Ahmed, head of Consumer Products, said: “May was a positive month for a range of categories, with the nation clearly determined to show support for retailers and local businesses.
“As friends and families reunited after months apart, it is reassuring to see signs of recovery for the entertainment and hospitality industries, both of which have faced significant challenges over the past year.”