Spending confidence high suggest Barclaycard

UK retail sales rose by 0.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis from December 2014, when they had decreased 0.4 per cent from the preceding year, as new research from Barclaycard reveals continued confidence in consumer financial health.

On a total basis, sales were up 1.0 per cent, against a 1.0 per cent rise in December 2014.

Adjusted for the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index deflation, total growth was 3.0 per cent.

Total growth was above the three-month average of 0.9 per cent but weaker than the 12-month average of 1.7 per cent.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 15.1 per cent in December versus a year earlier, when they had grown 7.0 per cent.


BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Looking at the year as a whole, the strongest performing categories include those related to the home, supported by a robust housing market, renewed strength in mortgage approvals and a generally healthier appetite among consumer for credit. With price deflation and offers aplenty, the current retail climate is great news for consumers, however retailers are not benefiting from the improved economic climate in the same way that other sectors have done. This is in part due to changing consumer shopping habits and the rising cost of doing business for retailers such as business rates and the national living wage due to be introduced in April. The Government has a prime opportunity in March’s budget to help UK retailers continue to drive growth in the economy and create new jobs by reducing the disproportionate burden of business rates and keep going with its structural review."

Meanwhile, latest Barclaycard research, which takes an in-depth look at the country’s spending patterns and confidence levels, found that a large majority (71 per cent) feel optimistic about their household finances when thinking ahead to the next three months. Additionally, three quarters (74 per cent) are confident in their ability to live within their means each month – up eight percentage points from January 2015.


This comes as Barclaycard found that over half (58 per cent) of respondents are feeling confident in their ability to spend more on non-essential items. These ‘lifestyle upgrades’ should result in spending uplifts for the retail and leisure sectors. Out of the items consumers plan to upgrade, new clothes, electronic devices and more meals out were each cited by a third of people (at 39 per cent, 36 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively).


Underlining this sense of growing confidence, one in three (34 per cent) plan to make at least one major purchase – the type that only comes up every few years or so – in the next twelve months. Over half of these are planning to spend on a big family holiday or overseas trip (52 per cent), and over a third (37 per cent) are eyeing new furniture. A similar proportion (33 per cent) are considering purchasing an item for their hobby such as a camera, whilst a quarter (27 per cent) are in the market for a new car and almost a fifth (18 per cent), a house or flat.


One in six (16 per cent) of those who plan to up their spending in 2016 will do so because they feel better off now than they have before and 13 per cent say that after ‘austerity fatigue’, it’s time to treat themselves and their family. However, three in ten (30.2 per cent) consumers cite necessity as the driving factor, saying they just ‘need to spend money on this item’. An ingrained search for value is a motivator for a fifth of shoppers (19 per cent), as they plan to spend more simply to take advantage of great deals.


In the last quarter of 2015, Barclaycard data showed consumer spending growth continued to rise, with overall spend up 3.5 per cent year-on-year. Online shopping in particular reported its strongest-ever quarterly growth, at 16 per cent. Entertainment growth was in double digits (10.2 per cent), whilst household and travel spending saw an uptick of 3.5 per cent and 7.0 per cent respectively.


Chris Wood, chief operating officer at Barclaycard said: "Consumers are starting the year with higher levels of confidence, thanks to lower fuel costs and interest rates, rising employment and real wage growth. As a result, they’re appearing more willing to make those bigger purchases that only come up every few years. These increased levels of confidence should be an encouraging signal for retailers, especially those selling holidays, cars and household goods.


"Spending on non-essential items, resulting in a further boost to the UK economy, looks set to continue as households plan to spend more on treating themselves and their families, thanks to months of careful budgeting and falling prices on essentials. But it will be interesting to see whether rising concerns over the global economy impact these plans, causing consumers to draw breath and slowing the pace of spending growth as we move forward into 2016." 

Christmas sales figures are likely to show ouble digit growth of discounters Aldi and Lidl, taken from the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons.

Grocery share figures from Kantar Worldpanel, for the 12 weeks ending 4 January 2016, show the discount retailers have successfully grown ahead of the market and were the share winners over Christmas.

The structural upheaval was caused by discounters, specifically, Aldi and Lidl. Lidl was the fastest growing retailer overall, with sales up by 18.5 per cent. An expanded product range, especially in its Deluxe premium line, has encouraged consumers to increase the size of their shop, with average basket sizes up by seven per cent to £17.20. Aldi followed with an increase in sales of 13.3 per cent.

The discounters are continuing to establish themselves in the minds of British consumers - almost one in eight did their single biggest December shopping trip in Aldi or Lidl, on top of the 15.6 million households who visited at some point in the 12 weeks. That is an increase of nearly one million shoppers on last year, and their combined share is up from 8.3 per cent last year to 9.7 per cent. Despite Aldi and Lidl's success, consumers are still spending most of their money in more traditional supermarkets, particularly in December, and total discounter share has dipped from the 10.0 per cent achieved just before Christmas.

While the discounters succeeded, shoppers reaped the benefit of falling prices this Christmas, with groceries 1.8 per cent cheaper than last year. The amount spent on a typical Christmas dinner fell even faster - down by 2.2 per cent - mainly due to cheaper poultry and traditional vegetable trimmings. Alcohol sales increased thanks to a surge in popularity for sparkling wines including Champagne and Prosecco, which increased in value by 11 per cent.

Wednesday 23 December was the single biggest shopping day of the year, but the anticipated uplift from an extra day in the week before Christmas didn't help the supermarkets overall. Consumers simply delayed their shopping trips later this year, rather than making any extra trips.

Once again, Sainsbury's was the best performing of the traditional supermarkets. Its premiumTaste the Differencebrand posted its biggest ever Christmas sales and promotional efforts were concentrated on simple price cuts rather than complicated multi-buy deals. This helped attract an additional 114,000 shoppers, with sales increasing by 0.8 per cent on last year.

Elswehere, discount retailers Waitrose and the Co-operative also benefited from shoppers trading up at Christmas. Waitrose grew sales by 1.5 per cent and taking share back up to 5.2 per cent, while the Co-operative also won share for the first time since the Somerfield acquisition - its sales growth of 1.4 per cent was enough for it to secure 6.0% of the market.

Tesco sales fell by 2.7 per cent, an investment in its 'festive five' fruit and vegetable promotions meant it was an improvement on last month's performance. The retailer's share went down to 28.3 per cent, with Asda and Morrisons also declining to 16.2 per cent and 11.0 per cent respectively. Morrisons share loss was expected as it continues to feel the effects of recent store closures, and the retailer hasn't repeated last year's Christmas Bonus loyalty cash promotion.

Overall, despite the success of the discounters, share figures showed no Christmas uplift for the British grocery market as sales fell by 0.2 per cent on last year.


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