Strong growth in entertainment spending ‘balanced 2018 high street struggles’

Households’ “consistently strong” appetite for spending on entertainment helped to balance out the high street’s woes last year, analysis has found.

Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all credit and debit card transactions in the UK, said overall spending grew by 4% year-on-year in 2018, rising slightly from 3.5% growth seen in 2017, as entertainment bolstered the struggling retail sector.

Barclaycard’s review of 2018 said: “Entertainment spending was consistently strong, resulting in robust discretionary expenditure in contrast to the challenges faced by the high street.”

Spending on entertainment saw 9% year-on-year growth in 2018, with the pub and restaurant sectors seeing spending growth of 11.2% and 8.7% respectively, Barclaycard said.

Spending on tickets saw 6.3% growth year-on-year, although there were some peaks and troughs during 2018 in spending on this sector.

The months of October and November saw particularly strong annual growth in ticket spending, coinciding with key dates such as the release of tickets for the Glastonbury Festival and the Spice Girls’ reunion tour, as well as high-profile cinema releases such as Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Spice Girls
The Spice Girls reunion tour helped to boost ticket sales, Barclaycard said (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Meanwhile, the retail sector struggled, with clothing expenditure reaching just 0.7% year-on-year growth. While spending on men’s clothing increased by 3%, spending on women’s clothing fell by 1.7%.

Spending in the supermarkets was consistent with 2017’s growth rate, at 3.6%.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: “Spending remained relatively robust in 2018, with strong growth in entertainment spending balancing continued struggles on the high street.

“The weather played a key role, with the long hot summer driving spending, while the colder weather kept consumers from the shops earlier in the year.”

She continued: “Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how consumers respond to the January sales and what impact the wider environment will have on household budgets and consumer confidence in the new year.”

The review compared spending data running from the period December 24 2017 to November 18 2018 with the same period a year earlier.

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