UK shoppers stay home as storms and virus rage

Growth in UK consumer spending slowed in February, with shoppers avoiding busy places due to the weather and virus.

Uk football fans
The UK has been affected by heavy storms in February that kept shoppers at home after it caused flooding in some parts of the country [File: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters]

More than one in four people in the United Kingdom put off going shopping or visiting other busy places last month because of the spread of coronavirus but stormy weather had an even bigger effect, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Barclaycard said its measure of consumer spending rose by 2.2 percent in February compared with the same month last year, slowing from January‘s 3.9 percent increase.

Spending on digital entertainment and takeaway food rose as people stayed at home, Barclaycard said.

Fifty-three percent of respondents in a poll commissioned by the firm said they delayed a shopping trip as a result of storms which hit the UK last month, while 28 percent avoided the high street and other busy places because of coronavirus concerns.

A separate survey of spending only at shops, published the British Retail Consortium (BRC), showed spending inched up by just 0.1 percent in February and fell by 0.4 percent when adjusted for changes in the amount of retail space.

The BRC said its members reported a slight rise in spending on food and healthcare as a result of concerns around coronavirus at the end of February before the number of cases of people affected by the virus jumped in the UK and Europe.

The BRC’s survey took place between February 2 and February 29, while the Barclaycard data covered January 25 to February 21.

The UK’s economy showed signs of a pick-up in early 2020 after the clear-cut election victory of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and finance minister Rishi Sunak have warned that the spread of coronavirus is likely to weigh on the economy in the short term.

A survey by the Institute of Directors, released late on Monday, showed the coronavirus outbreak had reversed the recent upturn in UK business leaders’ optimism, with confidence now at a six-month low.

Source: Reuters