Driver shortage and rising prices hamper consumer confidence

Paying by card

Consumer card spending grew 13.3% in September compared to the same period pre-pandemic, but supply problems and rising food and energy prices have hampered consumer confidence, new research reveals.

Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, shows that spending on essential items increased by 14.4% – the highest increase in more than two years. This was driven by supermarket shopping (+14.7%), as well as a surge in demand at the pumps and climbing petrol and diesel prices, causing the sharpest growth in fuel spend in more than 24 months.

The ongoing shortage of truck drivers is also making it more challenging for Brits to source some essentials in supermarkets and grocery stores. Almost half (46%) have reported seeing empty spaces on the shelves and 18% have found it harder than usual to find fresh fruit and vegetables. A further 13% have also found it difficult to purchase soft drinks, frozen goods, and fresh fish and meat.

The research shows that some shoppers are already seeking out value in the purchases they make, as discount stores saw a 29.3% uplift compared to 2019.

The rising cost of everyday items is also causing 90% of consumers to be concerned about the impact on their household finances, and in-turn those who feel optimistic about the economy has fallen month-on-month.

However, home improvements and DIY and pharmacy and health and beauty retailers saw their sharpest increase in spending since May 2021.

Raheel Ahmed, Head of Consumer Products, said: “The return of pupils and workers to schools and offices helped many sectors to see strong uplifts in September. Pubs, bars and clubs and the entertainment industry benefitted from post-work socialising, while international travel was given a boost as holidaymakers jetted off to warmer climes to squeeze in their last trips of summer.

“Consumers are, however, starting to feel the impact of rising prices on their personal finances, which is also hampering confidence levels. While this is causing some Brits to seek out value in their purchases, as the festive season approaches, we expect spending to gradually gather pace as shoppers start buying gifts and preparing for gatherings with loved ones.”