UK Consumers Splashed the Cash as Lockdown Rules Eased

UK Consumers Splashed the Cash as Lockdown Rules Eased

Customers queue outside a Primark store following its reopening on Oxford Street in central London. Getty Images.

UK consumers opened their wallets in May as the economy continued to emerge from coronavirus restrictions, boosting sales of everything from clothing to vacations, surveys published Tuesday show.

The British Retail Consortium said the value of sales were 10 percent higher in May than in the same month of 2019, the strongest growth of the pandemic. A similar picture emerged in a separate report from Barclaycard, which found Britons returning to stores and restaurants and taking days out, despite heavy rainfall.

The figures add to evidence that the country is in the grip of a consumer boom as households start to splurge savings that were accumulated while the pandemic closed vast parts of the economy.

A rapid vaccination program enabled non-essential stores to reopen in April. Indoor hospitality venues followed suit last month, putting the economy on course for its fastest recovery in decades. Plans to remove remaining restrictions on June 21 are under threat, however, due to the Covid-19 strain first identified in India, which is now spreading fast in the UK.

”There is a growing sense of consumer confidence, boosted not only by the widespread uptake of vaccinations and testing, but also retailers’ own significant investment in safety measures,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

In its report, Barclaycard said consumer spending rose 7.6 percent relative to May 2019, boosted by clothing and beauty products as Britons prepared for the return of post-lockdown socialising.

Sales of food, drink and clothing sales were also buoyant, and restaurants, bars and pubs saw signs of a recovery. But while there was strong demand for holidays in the UK, particularly among older people, travel agents and airlines continued to be hard hit by restrictions on international trips.

By Andrew Atkinson

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