Consumer spending up on pre-pandemic levels, driven by online grocery surge

shopping bags and smartphone as online sales sees consumer spend up
Online retail grew by 63.2%, with online grocery spend almost doubling across the year
// Consumer spend in 2021 has jumped by 5.9%, compared to 2019 figures
// Online retail grew by 63.2%, with online grocery spend almost doubling across the year

Consumer spending over the past year has jumped almost 6% against pre-pandemic levels, following a continued surge in online and convenience shopping.

Figures released from Barclaycard today reveal that consumer card spending rose by 5.9% over 2021, compared with 2019 figures.

Spending on essential items climbed by 11.1% over the period, largely driven by supermarket and grocery shopping, which saw an overall rise of 17.4%.

Online grocery spend almost doubled, with a surge of 97.4% over the year, as many households continued to rely on home deliveries for food shopping. March saw the highest increase of the year, when online grocery spend jumped by 119.7% compared to pre-pandemic figures.

The beginning of 2021 saw online shopping perform well in general, with non-essential retail closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Once again, the most significant spike came in March, when online retail increased by 87.7%, accounting for more than half (51.8%) of all retail spend.

Following a strong start, online retail grew by 63.2% across the rest of the year, as consumers continued to shop from digital devices, both at home and on the move.


Read more: UK retail sales boosted in November by early Christmas shopping


Bricks and mortar retail spending saw a rise of 0.6% over the same period.

Despite the difficult trading conditions faced by retailers, demand continued to grow for some sectors, with shoppers spending more at sports, clothing and health and beauty retailers throughout the year.

Consumer spending on home improvements also continued, as people focused on their homes following periods of lockdown. DIY spend was up 26.2%, with furniture spend jumping by 19.8%.

“2021 was another challenging year, as the pandemic continued to hamper the UK economy,” said Barclaycard’s head of consumer products Jose Carvalho.

“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.”

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