Growth in spending with agents and airlines maintained in January

Spending growth through travel agents and airlines continued to outstrip almost all other sectors in January, new data reveals.

Agents saw growth of eight per cent and airlines 9.3% over December with transactions up by 10.8% and 17.7% respectively.

Barclays’ consumer spend report for January shows an overall month-on-month rise for travel of 8.9% with a 12.7% jump in transactions.

This compared with overall card spending growing by just over three per cent last month.

The January figures maintain a continuing trend of improved spending on travel  over the past 12 months, although the percentage growth levels were down on high levels seen in the same month last year. 

Retail, hospitality and leisure spending slowed as people stayed at home to shelter from the cold weather and save money after a busy festive period, according to Barclays.

Spending on non-essential items increased 2.6% in January – consistent with the growth seen in December and November, at 2.5% and 2.7% respectively. 

This came as more than two fifths (43%) of consumers said they were planning to cut down on discretionary spending due to rising household bills, with many tightening their belts after the festive season.

However, the bank said: “Consumers’ confidence in both their household finances and ability to spend within their means reached its highest point in over two years.”

Barclays head of retail Karen Johnson said: “After a December filled with festive indulgence, Brits took on a more frugal approach in January, choosing to stay at home more often to save money and shelter from the winter weather.

“While this shift in behaviour resulted in subdued growth for hospitality and leisure, it’s encouraging that confidence is improving, with consumers remaining resilient and finding savvy ways to manage their finances.”

Chief UK economist Jack Meaning added: “Increasing consumer confidence is a positive message for the UK outlook in 2024, as we see inflation continue to fall, real incomes rising and growing signs that interest rate cuts are coming. 

“Spending looks to be on an upward trajectory, set to increase more than inflation in the coming months, which will be an important milestone for consumers and businesses who were squeezed throughout 2023.”

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