Independent shop sales get boost in 2020 as UK's big retailers suffer

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
Spending on non-essential items contracted 11.3%, as social distancing restrictions had a significant impact on high-street retailers and the hospitality sector. Photo: Getty Images
Spending on non-essential items contracted 11.3%, as social distancing restrictions had a significant impact on high-street retailers and the hospitality sector. Photo: Getty

Britons continued to support their local high street throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which is why independent shops saw a boost in their sales, although overall consumer spending took a hit, a new report revealed.

Barclaycard data showed that spending at food and drink specialist stores such as butchers and bakers was up by 28.6% this year compared with a year earlier.

This is supported by Barclaycard’s consumer confidence research, which revealed that 57% of Brits said they wanted to increase their support of nearby businesses as a result of lockdown restrictions.

However, consumer spending declined 7.1% year-on-year, as coronavirus restrictions impacted many sectors.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, also revealed that spending on essential items rose by 4.1% year-on-year.

This was largely driven by supermarket shopping, which saw an overall growth of 15.7%, with online grocery shopping surging 70.3% as the demand for delivery services increased.

Spending on non-essential items contracted 11.3%, as social distancing restrictions had a significant impact on high-street retailers and the hospitality sector.

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This was especially apparent for department stores where spending fell by 17.2%.

Perhaps the biggest sufferer of this was department store group Debenhams, which said it is set to close all its UK shops after 242 years in business, putting 12,000 jobs at risk in the country's second major corporate failure in as many days after Philip Green's Arcadia fashion group collapsed.

The hospitality sector also took a major hit. While the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative provided a boost to restaurants after the first national lockdown, restrictive measures throughout the year saw overall spending fall 47.0%.

Bars and pubs saw an overall drop of 36.7%.

However, online general retailers saw growth of 52.5%, while physical discount stores saw a 25.4% uplift as more Brits sought value for money in the purchases they made.

The travel sector has also suffered tremendously this year. Overall spending on travel, including airlines and travel agents, declined by 61.1% in August and 63.1% in September, showing the impact of international travel restrictions and quarantine guidelines on the sector.

On the upside, as more people spent time a home, boxsets and games consoles increased in popularity with spending on digital subscriptions and electronics seeing growths of 31.5% and 10.8% respectively.

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Spending on ordering takeaways online surged 49.1% and those offering services such as meal subscriptions grew by 62.4%.

Many Brits also took the opportunity to spruce up their indoor and outdoor living spaces, the report noted.

Spending at home improvement & DIY stores surged, driving an overall growth of 9.8% year-on-year. Furniture stores also enjoyed an overall uplift of 5.3%, as shoppers invested in big-ticket purchases, the report said.

Support for florists has also bloomed with purchases up 22.7% as Brits “treated themselves and showed friends and family from afar they were missed.”

Many also took up new hobbies and crafts, driving a 9.8% rise, and added new companions to their households, with vets and pets seeing a 10.7% uplift in 2020.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Hopefully with a vaccine being rolled out in 2021 we will see green shoots for the most severely impacted sectors. Having said that, some of the trends and changes we’ve seen in customer habits may be here to stay.”

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