Fashion sales in August were at their strongest since pre-pandemic levels and department store spending also saw a strong uplift last month, new figures from Barclaycard show.
At the same time, the monthly BRC/KPMG retail report said shoppers are returning to stores as non-food online sales fell 4.6% and online now accounts for less than 39% of total sales compared to 42% a year ago. The BRC also said total sales rose 3%, driven by formalwear fashion sales as weddings and a return to offices boosted the category.
Back with Barclaycard, it said consumer spending grew across most sectors compared to the same period in 2019, up 15.4% year-on-year last month, as Britons enjoyed summer holidays and started returning to the office.
The gradual return of workers to UK offices, and parents preparing their children for the new school year, also gave retailers a welcome boost.
Clothing rose for the fourth consecutive month, with impressive 33.5% growth online, and 12.8% growth overall, as shoppers took advantage of end-of-season sales to purchase workwear and school uniforms.
With office workers adjusting to new work and lifestyle patterns, 27% said they expected to keep their work wardrobe updated by allocating a larger budget for new clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Department stores also benefited, recording a 4.4% increase, marking the second month of growth since the start of the pandemic – with the first in May this year (+8.6%) when non-essential shops had just reopened.
Overall, non-essential items rose 15.9% – the highest increase since before the first national lockdown, and surpassing July’s high of 10.4% – helped by spending on socialising, plus purchases of those UK holidays, and back-to-school/back-to-office supplies.
The report said consumer confidence also reached its highest point since February 2020, yet concerns about rising inflation are causing many Britons to make adjust their behaviour, it noted.
Confidence in the UK economy rose to its highest point (37%) since February 2020 (42%), with 78% of Britons confident in their ability to live within their means each month, and 71% feeling optimistic about their household finances.
However, this optimism could be dampened by concerns about rising prices, as 64% of consumers worry that everyday items are becoming more expensive. Of those, 42% are already making lifestyle changes as a result.
Over a third (35%) say rising inflation will make them more likely to seek value in the purchases they make, and 30% are concerned about the impact of inflation on the value of their cash savings. These fears have led to 37% of Britons making cut-backs now to ensure they can afford higher outgoings for Christmas.