Spending at specialist food and drink stores, such as off-licences and greengrocers, grew by 30.5% last month
Fuel saw a 4.2% decline in March as the roads became quieter
Barclaycard found four in 10 UK adults checked in on vulnerable neighbours to see if they need help with shopping
Consumer spending on essential items soared in March, driven by shoppers flocking to supermarkets, off-licences and independent grocers as coronavirus-fuelled panic took hold, according to the latest data from Barclaycard.
Supermarket purchases drove much of the 11.6% growth on essential spending, with the category increasing by 21.3%.
Spending at specialist food and drink stores, such as off-licences and greengrocers, grew by 30.5% last month as more than half (55%) of Brits chose to buy locally.
Discount stores also recorded increased demand as shoppers sought value for money, rising 25.2%, while pharmacy, health & beauty was up 0.5%.
In the week before social distancing measures were introduced in the UK – 16 to 22 March – spending in off-licences and greengrocers rocketed by 80%, with supermarkets also up 49%, as the nation prepared for lockdown.
However, overall consumer spending dropped 6% year on year as measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic were introduced.
Fuel saw a 4.2% decline in March as the roads became quieter and spending on non-essentials was down 12.9% as non-food retailers took a hit.
Travel expenditure – which includes public transport – declined by 40.5%, while restaurants and bars, pubs and clubs contracted 35.5% and 22.2% respectively.
Online purchases increased by 5.5% in March while in-store transactions dropped 4%.
Consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level since Barclaycard started the survey six years ago, with just 25% of UK adults feeling positive about the state of the UK economy – down 17 percentage points from February. Confidence in job security declined 6 percentage points to 43%, suggesting concern about the months to come.
Barclaycard said a positive side effect of social distancing was the growth in community spirit, with four in 10 (41%) UK adults checking in on vulnerable neighbours to see if they need help with shopping. In another sign of goodwill, 71% chose not to stockpile food, medical suppliers and other essential items so that others wouldn’t be left empty-handed.
Brits also continued to be resolute about their own financial situation, with 68% remaining positive about their household finances, broadly in line with last month. This could be attributed to the fact 56% said they were saving money by avoiding the pub, eating out and commuting less.
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact everyday life in the UK, and this is naturally reflected in where and how Brits are spending their money,” said Barclaycard director Esme Harwood.
“It’s no surprise that essential spend has increased as tighter movement restrictions have meant consumers are largely staying indoors, and therefore unable to visit the high street, socialise in person or travel.
“However, despite these turbulent times, it’s positive to see that many Brits remain resilient about their own household finances. It’s also heartening to see communities supporting each other – whether clapping for the NHS, checking on vulnerable neighbours or supporting local businesses.”