LONDON (Reuters) – Britons splashed out in bars and restaurants at the expense of retailers in the Easter holidays last month, surveys showed on Wednesday, and there were signs that households were turning less worried about Brexit.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said shops sales failed to meet expectations in April despite recording an annual 4.1 percent jump which in part reflected the timing of the Easter holidays. That compared with a 0.5 percent decline in March.
Separate figures from payments company Barclaycard – which includes entertainment and travel as well as shopping – also showed consumers were more willing to spend last month, especially in bars and restaurants.
Consumer spending, along with stockpiling by manufacturers ahead of Brexit, has helped to support Britain’s economy just as businesses, unnerved by uncertainty over the country’s departure from the European Union, cut back on investment.
“Retail sales were below expectation this month as the sunshine over the Easter weekend persuaded many to pursue recreational, rather than retail, activities,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
Barclaycard said spending at pubs and restaurants increased 13 and 10 percent in annual terms respectively, contributing to a 2.5 percent rise in overall consumer spending last month.
By contrast, airline spending fell by 4.8 percent, the weakest performance for the category since Barclaycard started tracking it in 2015.
Barclaycard said the latest delay to the Brexit deadline until the end of October, combined with warmer weather, seemed to have boosted the mood of Britons – 33 percent of consumers felt confident about the economy, up from 26 percent in March.
But shoppers remained cautious – 61 percent said they expected no change to their spending plans for May and only one in 10 said they were likely to spend on big-ticket items due to the Brexit delay.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg)