UK Consumer Spending Up A Third Since Pre-Pandemic

Industry Analysis: Payment solutions company, UTP Group, reveals consumer spending is up by a third (32%) since restrictions eased compared to same period in April 2019

New data from UTP Group, providers of credit card machines to small and medium size businesses, reveals the data from across all sectors of the economy as consumer spending is up by a third (32%) across the UK since Covid-19 restrictions eased, compared to an equivalent period pre-pandemic in April 2019.

As lockdown restrictions lift further today (17th May 2021), with the reopening of indoor hospitality, theatres, cinemas and children’s soft play centres, as well as sports stadiums, galleries and holidays abroad to some countries, the data indicates a positive upturn in sales that’s set to continue for all sectors.

As everyone was advised to remain at home, the sector with the greatest uplift in sales since pre-pandemic is outdoor equipment including swimming pools and hot tubs, seeing an incredible 200% uplift on the equivalent period in 2019, along with camping and caravan sites enjoying bookings up 86% as the staycation proves the most popular choice of holiday.  By contrast, lodging hotels and motels are down 51% in the same period in April 2019.

There’s no surprise that housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels have all seen an increase in sales of 49%, with the most marked improvement overall in furnishings and household equipment, up 57%.

Recreation, sport and culture has seen a 51% increase in spending in the same three-week period between April 2019 and April 2021; and is set to rise further now with gyms and galleries reopening.

Investing in antiques is up 108%; contractors, employed for home and industry improvements while businesses remain closed, experienced a rise of 118%; and taxis and limousines have benefitted with an 82% rise in sales.

Those opting to cycle in the fresh air and avoid travelling by car or train has increased sales of bicycles by two thirds (68%).

Photographers were hard hit, with all weddings and events cancelled in 2020, however since businesses have started to re-open and consumer confidence is rising, bookings are higher than they were, yet still down 50% on the same period in 2019.

Encouragingly, Saturday 1st May was an all-time record for card processing, with the combination of payday and a bank holiday weekend. Businesses are recognising the need for more flexibility, with demand for portable/mobile devices increasing from 68% to 77%.

Spending across all regions in the UK is up, comparing card usage in the three weeks post 12 April 2021. Wales has seen the most significant increase in card spending across all regions with a 67% rise in spending in April 2021 compared to the equivalent period in 2019. Despite a fall in revenue for hotels and restaurants, spending on outdoor equipment, camping and caravan sites, car sales and building materials has boosted overall spending.

London increased by 23%, which is low in comparison to other regions, however this is expected to jump when the theatres and attractions open, tourists are welcomed back, and office-based commuters return to the city for work.

There has been a significant shift towards contactless payments, with consumers moving away from chip and pin, as well as preferring to use card over cash in a post-covid world. Incredibly, in just three years, average contactless card payments in the UK as revealed by UTP Group, has risen from 55% in 2018 to current contactless rates at 84%, as we become a contactless card society. These figures are set to rise further when, as confirmed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), changes to its rules later in the year will allow an increase in the single transaction contactless payment threshold from £45 to £100. The contactless threshold for multiple transactions will also increase from £130 currently to £300.

Michael Ault, CEO and founder of UTPGroup, says: “The affect the Covid-19 pandemic has had on card transactions is monumental. Not only has Covid-19 led to a reduction in the use of cash, but it has also resulted in the increase in contactless payments. This trend has meant that merchants need to develop their payment solutions to keep up with the increased demand as lockdown restrictions lift”.

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