Consumer spending up 2.2% in February despite Coronavirus and storms hindering retail sector

New figures released by Barclaycard Spend Index show that consumer spending grew 2.2% year-on-year in February, despite the fact that British consumers stayed home to avoid extreme weather and the potential spread of Coronavirus.

Figures showed spending on non-essentials saw slightly stronger growth of 2.4%, yet the retail sector was impacted by 29% of Brits spending less because of Storms Ciara and Dennis, with 53% of these consumers delaying a shopping trip as a result.

Fears surrounding coronavirus also led to 28% of UK adults avoiding the high street and other busy places. Department stores continued to face challenges, shrinking by 3.6%, while clothing expenditure dipped 1.7%.

Confidence in the market is being driven largely by Brits believing that progress is being made around Brexit, with 21% putting their optimism down to greater certainty about life outside of the European Union.

However, in a sign of ongoing consumer cautiousness, 36% of UK adults remain careful with their money and 54% worried about the rising prices of everyday items and how this will impact their ability to spend.

The figures come from 2,005 respondents, providing a representative sample of UK consumers by age, gender, region, and income.

Esme Harwood, Director at Barclaycard, said: “Storms, floods and fears about the spread of Coronavirus have kept many Brits away from the high street this month. Despite this, broader consumer spending has held up as people put their money towards enjoying a takeaway and digital subscriptions.

The figures support previous stats from BDO’s High Street tracker, which reported Like-for-like store sales slipping 0.9% in February 2020.

The international retail sector has set up a new Association of International Retail, which unveiled a recovery plan for the industry which will be put into action when the Coronavirus is contained.