Spending up as warm Easter and Brexit delay ‘boost confidence’ | Business News

Consumer spending rose 2.5% in April as warm weather and the Brexit delay lifted consumers’ spirits, according to Barclaycard.

Supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and garden centres were the big winners, its report said, with spending on clothing, electronic stores and department stores all contracting.

The findings suggest Easter did not provide the boost the struggling high street needed following the recent rescue of Debenhams – with even Sir Philip Green’s fashion empire seeking improved terms.

Shoppers walk past Debenhams on Oxford Street in central London 2/4/2018
Image:
Debenhams is still fighting for its survival after coming under the control of its banks

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Despite Easter falling in April, spending on airlines was down 4.8% – perhaps reflecting caution in the run-up to the original Brexit date of 29 March.

Barclaycard, which accounts for almost half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions, released its figures and commentary as a separate report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) also highlighted a distortion in its findings.

The industry body said the timing of Easter, which fell in March last year, meant its reading of a 4.1% rise in total retail sales compared to April 2018 came with a health warning.

Bad weather and online buying have been blamed for fall in shoppers on the high street
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High streets have struggled for more than a year as Brexit caution hit confidence and chains juggled higher costs

It too said that fashion largely lost out as people spent more on recreational activities in the sunshine.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG which compiles the BRC’s figures, said: “Looking at sub-categories, food retailers were clear winners as families came together for festive feasts and even braved their first picnic or
barbecue of the year.

“The long weekend also helped children’s toys and furniture sales, as parents looked to keep youngsters entertained as they returned to home and garden improvements.

“April may have eased the strain on retailers somewhat, but we can’t overlook the fact that the new tax year also presents retailers with additional costs ranging from increased minimum wages to additional pension contributions.

“The task of balancing sales and a profitable margin remains crucial, especially given the widespread promotional activity currently.”

Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: “Warmer temperatures, especially over the Easter weekend, led many consumers to spend on experiences and dining out.

“Overall consumer spending in April has remained relatively modest, with the retail sector continuing to struggle.

“While the Brexit delay seems to have brought some short-term relief to consumer confidence, it’s clear that many shoppers still remain cautious about making any big-ticket purchases such as holidays, a new car or investing in home
improvements.”

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