THIS year is firmly established as “the year of recovery”, economists say, after a monthly financial analysis revealed a fourth straight month of increased consumer spending.
The amount spent by consumers grew by 4.4 per cent UK-wide in August and is set to continue the upwards trend later in the year, Barclaycard said, as people relaxed their grip on household finances and splashed out on the high street – as well as restaurants, bars and other leisure venues.
UK-wide, in-store spend grew by 3.3 per cent compared to August last year – the second highest increase since 2012 – but the amount spent in restaurants rocketed by 13.3 per cent and was 8.1 per cent higher in
cinemas and theatres.
The report is the latest in a line of positive economic data to be released, boosting optimism that Britain is well on the way to recovery post-recession.
Scotland, however, showed the slowest growth of all regions of the UK, spending rising just 3.4 per cent, year on year.
“The Barclaycard numbers are consistent with the values that are coming through on our own surveys – that the UK economy is recovering quite well,” said Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland. “We do need a consumer recovery, as well as one from services, construction and manufacturing.”
But he warned consumers should not become complacent and rack up high debts. “The only caveat is that it is important that people only use their credit cards to the amount that they can afford to borrow,” he said.
“It is very important that we do not get any of the same kind of consumer boom that we saw at the end of the last decade.” Barclaycard said the warm summer, combined with increased confidence in the economic situation, had led people to splurge on leisure activities and shopping.
DIY also showed strong growth, rising 6.4 per cent. “The weather has undoubtedly helped,” said Barclaycard chief executive Val Soranno Keating.
“It was confirmed last week that we’ve enjoyed one of the warmest summers on record and the consumer response has been to hit the high street, with in-store spend growing in August by a robust 3.3 per cent versus last year – the second-highest level this year.
“Spending on eating out, holidaying in the UK, and doing up the house grew particularly strongly in August.
“Rising consumer confidence pushed spending growth above four per cent in August for the fourth straight month as households continued to shake off the economic downturn. It’s a trend we’ve seen for most of this year and has helped establish 2013 as the year of recovery.”
Despite the sunny weather, consumers also increased the amount they shopped online by almost ten per cent. Most categories of online spend remained up on 2012 in August, with online furniture stores spend seeing a 36 per cent growth and women’s clothing up 32 per cent year-on-year.
Barclaycard claimed economic growth is set to continue into the third quarter of the year.
Ms Soranno Keating added: “When set alongside the other economic news we’ve seen recently, and with forecasters predicting an above average September weather-wise, we expect this month to be another positive one and for UK plc to end the third quarter on a high.”
THE WINNERS AND LOSERS
• Restaurants +13.3%
• Cinema/Theatre +8.1%
• Hotels +6.7%
• DIY stores +6.4%
• Public transport +5%
• Supermarkets -0.1%
• Department Stores -0.8%
• Family Clothing -0.9%
• Electronic Stores -1.4%
Retirement contributions ‘fall far short’
Workers need to pay an extra £669 into their company pension scheme every month if they are to enjoy the retirement income they want, a report warns.
And one in five people has no pension provision at all – increasing to almost half for those aged under 30, the report by Scottish Widows found.
The Workplace Pensions Report said the average employee waiting to be auto-enrolled into a scheme is currently planning to pay just £155 a month into their firm’s scheme – but needs to up that to £842 if they are to receive the desired £25,200 a year retirement income.
A typical worker yet to be enrolled will currently have to live on £13,900 a year if they do not dramatically raise contributions.
New legislation which means every employer must automatically enrol workers into a workplace pension scheme if they fit certain criteria has already seen over a million workers enrolled in a workplace pension plan.
However, the study of more than 5,000 people showed that among those still to be auto-enrolled – around 8.6 million people – the amount they are willing to save each month has fallen on last year’s levels.
“We cannot ignore the fundamental correlation between poor employee awareness of the scheme and the lack of understanding of the realities of retirement,” said Lynn Graves, head of business development in corporate pensions at Scottish Widows.
... but 56% of parents say they’re worse off this year
Family budgets are spiralling out of control, with more than half of parents saying their household finances are in a worse state now than last year, according to a report.
With an increased cost of living, 34 per cent of parents also say they are having to cope with finances which are being both squeezed and stretched at the same time.
The figures from a Your Bank report by Barclays highlight the concerns and circumstances of British families. A total of 4,213 adults, of which 1,058 had children aged under 18, were questioned for the report.
Some 19 per cent of parents said they did not feel they were in control of their finances and 56 per cent admitted their family budget is now in a worse state than in July 2012.
Many people feared that tomorrow is set to be just as bleak, as 82 per cent of parents were concerned about what they can afford in the next 12 months. And 85 per cent were worried about family spending from July 2015 and beyond.
Of those who felt their finances were running out of their control, 18 per cent said they were put off managing the situation because they just did not enjoy dealing with it. Another 14 per cent said they just did not know where to start.
The research was carried with Kingston University Small Business Research Unit with the aim of helping families run their household finances like a successful business.