Consumer card spending grew by 5.9 per cent in the past year as people sought the convenience of online retail therapy and at-home comforts to make up for the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Online shopping surged at the start of 2021, when all non-essential retail and hospitality remained closed due to virus restrictions, with Barclaycard recording an increase of 87.7 per cent in March 2021 compared to 2019.
Shoppers continued to make purchases through their screens throughout 2021, with online retail recording “strong growth” of 63.2 per cent compared to in-person retail spending, which saw a significantly smaller rise of 0.6 per cent.
As households continued to rely on grocery deliveries to their doorsteps, online grocery spend also saw its highest increase of the year in March, which increased by 119.7 per cent. Overall, online retail accounted for more than half (51.8 per cent) of all retail spend this year.
Home improvements was another area where Britons splashed their cash to make staying at home more comfortable and entertaining. Spending on DIY home improvements and furniture increased by 26.2 per cent and 19.8 per cent respectively.
In terms of indoor entertainment, digital content and subscriptions grew by nearly 50 per cent and spending on electronics rose by 10.3 per cent as households acquired the latest films, boxsets and games consoles.
Reflecting the huge rise in pet ownership since the start of the pandemic, with an estimated 3.2 million UK households adding a pet to their family, spending on vets and pet retailers rose by 29.1 per cent compared to 2019.
Staying at home also spurred people on to spend more on takeaways and fast food, which rose by 62 per cent in 2021.
But even after Covid measures were relaxed in the summer, Barclaycard noted that “demand for speed and ease remained a noticeable mainstay” among consumers. Many relied on the convenience of local shops and delivery services, with specialist stores like butchers, greengrocers and meal kit providers seeing a 74 per cent rise in sales.
However, all was not lost for the hospitality and leisure sector, with venues showing signs of recovery since restrictions were eased in July.
Before the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 emerged in late November, spending in pubs, bars and clubs grew in the second half of 2021, including a 43.5 per cent increase in September.
Holidays in the UK saw huge demand this year as the pandemic continued to hamper international travel, with hotels, resorts and accommodation seeing growth for the first time since before the public health crisis.
Although research from Goldman Sachs’ online bank Marcus predicts holiday spending will become a top priority for 2022, Barclaycard cautions that the outlook remains uncertain due to rising Covid cases, as well as other financial challenges consumers will face.
Jose Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “As we look ahead to 2022, the economy will face fresh challenges from rising household bills, inflation, and uncertainty about the new Covid variant.
“Yet, as we’ve seen over the last two years, consumers and businesses are capable of adapting to and overcoming immense hardship and adversity – the resolve and determination of the British public to succeed is why I’m still optimistic about the year ahead and what it may bring.”