Spending by shoppers at British retailers grew less quickly in January but the overall picture looked a bit brighter as consumers treated themselves to cinema trips and booked holidays, new surveys have shown.
The British Retail Consortium said spending in store chains rose by 4.2% in annual terms in January, weaker than December's 6.9% rise and lagging behind inflation which signified a fall in sales volumes.
"As we head into a difficult time for consumers, the short-term outlook for the retail sector remains challenging," Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, which co-produces the figures, said.
"With the latest interest rate rise and utility price increases heading our way, shrinking household incomes mean we will continue to see a shift in what consumers buy and where they buy from."
Interest Rate Rise
The Bank of England last week raised interest rates for the 10th time in a row to 4%, their highest since 2008, as it sought to counter risks from an inflation rate above 10%. The central bank said it saw Britain going into a recession from early 2023.
But figures from Barclays showed some strength in consumer demand.
Total Spending Up
Total spending on Barclays payment cards rose by 9.7% last month from January 2022, helped by a 66% jump in holiday bookings and a 21% rise in entertainment spending on the back of the release of new movies such as Avatar: The Way of Water.
The growth comparisons were flattered by last January's coronavirus restrictions, and colder weather in January this year pushed up spending on utilities by 45%.
But consumers appeared to be taking a more optimistic view with Barclays' confidence measure rising to 63%, its highest since last July.
"While it’s encouraging that confidence in household finances saw a slight boost, it is clear that Brits will still need to find ways to manage their budgets over the coming months amid rising grocery price inflation and mounting utility bills," Esme Harwood, a director at Barclays, said.