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UK consumer spending declined 0.1% in October but online clothing sales saw 26.6% growth

Tom Bottomley
10 November 2020

Consumer spending declined 0.1% overall year-on-year in October, 2020, as further restrictions came in to force across the UK amid the spike in coronavirus cases and Brits being encouraged to stay at home, according to the latest report from Barclaycard.

The sales of clothing fell -2.7% overall in October, though promisingly there was a 20.6% growth seen in shopping for clothing online as the nation chose to shop from home instead of on the high street.

Not surprisingly, spending on essential items grew 4.2%, bolstered by continued growth in supermarket spend as the category saw an online lift of 94.4%.

That comes as a third (33%) of Brits say they are stockpiling essentials in preparation for potential shortages, especially during Lockdown 2 in England.

Spend on digital content saw its highest uplift (32.3%) since the first national lockdown eased in July, while takeaways stayed strong at 18.3% growth, as many embraced dining in with a box set.

Boosted by early Christmas shoppers, general retailers and catalogues saw growth of 50% in October. Food and drink specialist stores, including butchers and greengrocers, also rose by 50.7% as nearly half of shoppers (48%) looked to support local businesses.

However, the restrictions introduced in October impacted consumer optimism, as household confidence dropped to 67% – a level not seen since May (also 67%) and down from 70% September.

Confidence in the UK economy also remains low at 22%, with less than half as many over-55’s (15%) as 18-34-year-olds (34%) feeling confident.

Raheel Ahmed, Head of Consumer Products at Barclaycard, said: “As Brits once again adjust to tighter restrictions, it’s no surprise that the digital habits adopted earlier this year are enduring. As we enter another period of lockdown in England and further restrictions across the UK, this stay-at-and home mentality is likely to persist, as is the popularity of takeaways and digital subscriptions – helped along by the colder weather and darker evenings.

“As the country prepares for a winter under potentially tighter restrictions, and we turn to online for our Christmas shopping, the resilience of bricks-and-mortar retailers will be tested as we wait to see what the rest of the year brings.”

Indeed, as the colder winter months hit, more time spent indoors also means more hours browsing the internet. Overall online transactions grew by 29% in October, accounting for 45.7% of all retail spend in the month – a steady rise from August (44%) and September (43.4%).

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