Warmer weather and easing of lockdown restrictions helped UK high streets to bounce back slightly in July, research shows.
Consumer spending was down 2.6% year-on-year, representing the smallest drop since lockdown began on 23 March, according to data from Barclaycard.
Essential spending was up 3.2% from June 2019, largely driven by a 15% increase in supermarket shopping. Meanwhile, non-essential spending was down 4.7% year-on-year in July — an improvement from June, when it was down 22.3%.
Much of this can be attributed to Brits choosing to support local businesses. Spending in off-licences, greengrocers and independent convenience stores was up 43%, while fast food orders were up 20%.
But the warmer weather and the start of school holidays in England and Wales have also helped, with shopping at sports and outdoor stores up 28%, the research found.
Additionally, with most hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons reopening their doors on 1 July, pharmacies and health and beauty shops saw an increase of 4% year-on-year, up from a 33% decline in June.
The hospitality sector also showed signs of recovery. Restaurants saw an annual decline of 64%, while pubs and bars were down 43% year-on-year. However, this is compared to 86% and 93%, respectively, in June.
One in three (31%) Brits told Barclaycard they are trying to support the hospitality industry where they can, with 36% dining in restaurants, 28% going out for drinks and 34% intending to take advantage of the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” initiative.
Meanwhile, travel spending was down 60% as “staycation” spending failed to offset restrictions on international travel, the data shows.
Two in three (58%) Brits told Barclaycard they are concerned about travelling overseas, while half do not even feel comfortable using public transport.
“Consumer spending has warmed up alongside the weather, as Brits return to the shops for non-essential items. It’s a welcome development for retailers to see spending up across many sectors in the first full month of data since lockdown restrictions started to ease,” said Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard.
“However, a sense of cautiousness still prevails. While some consumers feel more comfortable returning to shops, others are still wary of taking public transport and travelling outside the UK, with fears and uncertainties lingering about returning to normality too quickly.”