Weather affects high street spending

Consumer spending growth hit 4.6 per cent in July year-on-year, but the weather caused a drop in spending later in the month, according to the latest analysis of UK consumer spending by Barclaycard.

High temperatures at the start of the month brought consumers out onto the high street and helped drive up spending on clothing, in department stores and on electronics, leading to growth levels of 3.6 per cent and 2.1 per cent in the first two weeks for in-store spend.

But as temperatures dropped below average towards the end of July and a month’s worth of rain fell in one day in some parts of the country, people opted to stay in, causing in-store spend growth to fall in the third and fourth weeks of the month to 1.5 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively.

Online shopping picked up some of the slack, with consumers spending 18.8 per cent more online when the weather turned – up from 12.3 per cent at the start of the month.

Where shoppers did venture out, they opted for one-stop-shops such as department stores which, as a result, saw in-store spend growth rise from 5.0 per cent in the first week to 9.5 per cent in the final week.

Spending on clothing was also consistent with the weather patterns. The higher temperatures and perceived ‘start to summer’ at the beginning of the month saw clothing spend up 14 per cent and 10.2 per cent in the first and second weeks respectively. But this plummeted when the weather broke, with growth contracting to 1.9 per cent and -4.3 per cent in the final two weeks.

Overall, growth in clothing spend across the month was 5.4 per cent – the highest level since the January sales – as consumers continued to treat themselves on the back of their improving personal finances.

Department store spending growth - up 8.8 per cent - reached its highest level in 18 months, only just being pipped by the 9 per cent growth in January 2014. The levels of extra spending in both categories firmly point towards strongly-improved trading for the respective sectors, lifting expectations of a strong summer for high-street retailers.

Spending on leisure and entertainment was up 12.8 per cent in July – its highest level this year. It was helped by a 30.1 per cent jump in cinema spending.

Chris Wood, managing director at Barclaycard, said: "July was a prime example of how the weather impacts the way consumers spend their money. The heat wave that dominated the start of the month provided a lift to the high street – especially clothing and department stores – as consumers took to the shops to update their wardrobes.

"Overall, the rise in discretionary spending in July echoes a six-month trend where consumers, supported by significant tailwinds such as zero inflation, rising wages and clear guidance on interest rates, feel more comfortable splashing out on the nice-to-haves."

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