In winter 2022 to 2023, the value of consumer spending increased but what consumers received in return decreased as inflation eroded the spending power of consumers.
Although rising prices led to higher consumer spending, how and when consumers spent were similar to previous winters.
Spending on sale days such as Black Friday and Boxing Day increased in winter 2022 to 2023.
Events such as the winter FIFA World Cup and industrial action did not lead to noticeably different patterns in consumer spending.
Despite negative consumer sentiment and cost-of-living pressures, the 2022 to 2023 winter did not see significant declines in consumer spending patterns, with regular factors such as Black Friday, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day continuing to dominate.
Household expenditure is under pressure as high inflation outpaces earnings growth. This article uses aggregated and anonymised daily Revolut card spending data to explore changes in discretionary spending in response to on-going factors such as the rising cost-of-living and inflation. We also explore factors specific to this winter, including:
Consumer price inflation continues to remain around the highest in approximately 40 years. In the year to January 2023, Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) rose by 8.8% down from 9.2% in December 2022. This was because of high global energy prices.
The result of rising prices has been to erode earnings leading to a reduction in disposable incomes as housholds see falls in their spending power as prices rise. This has led to consumers spending more and getting less.
Figure 2 shows the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail sales over time. Retail sales value rose by 4.1% in the 12 months to January 2023. At the same time volumes fell by 5.1%. This growing gap shows how consumers now must spend more to maintain their standard of living. As prices rise online and in shops, consumers have spent more in total, seeking to maintain their level of consumption, at the expense of higher prices and receiving less per pound spent.Back to table of contents
This analysis looks at more discretionary spending sectors such as clothing and footwear, food and drink, travel, entertainment and hospitality, household goods, and an online or in-store comparison. Discretionary goods and services are typically what are considered to be optional purchases as opposed to non-discretionary purchases and are thought to be more responsive to changes in price. Further details on these categories can be found in Section 12: Data sources and quality.
Revolut data for 17 November 2022 to 4 January 2023 (this winter) do not highlight any significant declines in consumer spending at the total level and online or in-stores. Nominal Revolut card spending was more resilient this winter than in previous years.
These data show how industrial action on the railways on the 13 to 14 and 16 to 17 December 2022 as well as 3 to 7 January 2023, appears to have had no large negative impact on total consumer spending, either in terms of total spent or when they spent. When consumers were asked by our Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering the period 7 to 18 December 2022, 6 in 10 (60%) adults said they were planning on cutting back on the amount of money they spent on Christmas in 2022 compared with last year. The most frequent ways these adults were planning to spend less money during the 2022 Christmas season, were buying fewer presents (79%) and buying less expensive presents (73%). Results from our Opinions and Lifestyle Survey for the period 21 December 2022 to 8 January 2023 published on 13 January 2023 reported consistent estimates. However, card spending data from Revolut suggest that nominal consumer spending has been more resilient than expected despite the negative sentiment reported by consumers.
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In winter 2022 to 2023, consumers have spent more on clothing and footwear than in previous festive periods. This is partly a result of rising prices. The average inflation rate between November 2022 to January 2023 was 6.7% for clothing and footwear.
The Retail Sales Index reports how the volume of sales in clothing stores unexpectedly saw a small increase into November and December 2022 by 1.1% and 1.0% respectively. In this respect, consumers have increased their spending this winter to maintain their level of consumption of clothing and footwear, as opposed to cutting back.
Daily Revolut card spend data highlight how spending on clothing and footwear peaked over the winter on 25 November 2022 (Black Friday). Revolut spending was 31.3% higher than Boxing Day and 77.0% higher than New Year’s Day.Back to table of contents
Consumer spending on food and drink in winter 2022 to 2023 was higher than in previous winters, partly a result of rising prices. Between November 2022 to January 2023 the average rise in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages as measured by the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) was 16.7%. However, spending patterns this winter appear to have been very similar to previous winters.
The first FIFA World Cup to occur in winter took place from 20 November to 18 December 2022. With the most watched World Cup games later in the tournament, December 2022 saw similar levels and timing of spending on food and drink to previous winters. On 18 December 2022, the day of the World Cup final, there was no rise in spending in the food and drink category.
In terms of volume, the Retail Sales Index for food store sales fell by 0.5% in January 2023, following a fall of 0.7% in December 2022. Alongside data from Revolut, this suggests there was no significant growth in spending on food and drink because of the FIFA World Cup.
Sales data from the British Retail Consortium suggest that over the three months to December 2022, food sales increased 7.9% in total. The week ending Saturday 24 December 2022 provided the largest cash value ever recorded for a trading week in the sector. Despite this, volume sold was similar to previous years, providing further evidence that rising prices were responsible for the growth of spending.
Despite a 16.8% rise in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages in the year to January 2023 as measured by CPIH, there was only small degree of “trading down” by shopping at less expensive supermarkets, as consumers preferred to “trade down” to lower prices goods within the same supermarket. There was only a small change in market share benefiting more budget supermarkets, according to grocery market data from Kantar. These small changes demonstrate the resilience of consumer behaviour over this winter period. This is notable as of those who reported cutting back their spending over Christmas between 7 and 18 December 2022, 62% said they would be buying less expensive food and drink.Back to table of contents
On the 13 to 14 and 16 to 17 December 2022, and 3 to 7 January 2023, industrial action on many parts of the rail network took place. One expected result of consumers not traveling by train would be a fall in consumer spending in retail and hospitality settings.
Figure 7 shows us that although consumers could not travel on many parts of the rail network, total spend on travel only slightly decreased on these dates. Revolut spending was 30.7% higher on 20 November 2022, a strike day, than on 17 December 2022, the day of the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup. This indicates that spending on rail tickets on the day of travel is not of a large enough value to affect total travel spending, or that consumers substituted buying rail tickets on the day for other forms of travel, such as fuel, bus tickets or taxis. This in turn, enables consumers to continue to travel and maintain their levels of spending.
Retail footfall decreased in the week to 18 December 2022, falling to 94% of the level seen in the previous week and 77% of the level reported in 2019. Footfall in high streets experienced the largest week-on-week decrease at 88% of the level of the previous week. However, it does not appear that this change in footfall led to lower spending overall by consumers.
Compared with the year before, retail footfall on Boxing Day 2022 was nearly 40% higher. This along with increased spending on Black Friday (Figure 9), suggest consumers may be attempting to take advantage of sale days to get more for their money.Back to table of contents
While a winter FIFA World Cup could be expected to drive consumers into entertainment settings such as bars and restaurants, rising prices and rail strikes were expected to drive consumers away.
Revolut data show nominal spending in entertainment settings such as bars and restaurants was more stable than expected. Consumers did not substantially increase their spending on entertainment during the World Cup, nor did they appear to cut back.
On 18 December 2022, the day of the World Cup final, Revolut spending in entertainment settings was 11.0% higher than two days before, when no match was played. However, it marked the start of a daily increase that continued until a few days before Christmas Day, the same pattern as last year.
The data also suggest that spending over the winter period in bars was highest on Boxing Day after a low on Christmas Day, a 110.4% increase in Revolut spending on entertainment. This suggests the usual seasonal winter factors are still more responsible for changes in consumer spending than ones specific to this winter, such as rising prices, industrial action, or the World Cup.
Data from OpenTable found that in the week to 18 December 2022, the number of UK seated diners decreased by 10 percentage points from the previous week. However, this was 113% of the level seen in the equivalent period of the previous year and 101% of the level in the equivalent week of 2019 (data from OpenTable). Revolut data over this period did not increase and suggest that although there may have been table bookings, consumers did not spend more on their bills overall. This highlights the resilience of discretionary consumer spending over the winter. This is notable as in the period 7 to 18 December 2022 58% of people who reported cutting back their spending over Christmas said they would eat out less.
In comparison to New Year’s Eve 31 December 2019 before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, consumer spending patterns on 31 December 2021 and 2022 appear slightly contrasting. This can partially be explained by New Year’s Eve falling on different days of the week for the consecutive years.
Additionally in December 2021, in the week ending 28 December infection rates increased to 1 in 20 people testing positive for COVID-19 in England, 1 in 18 in Wales, 1 in 16 in Northern Ireland and 1 in 15 in Scotland. These high infection rates may have led to more isolation and therefore less spending in entertainment and hospitality on New Year’s Eve in December 2021, demonstrating a continued economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.Back to table of contents
Many household goods are durable, long lasting and more expensive compared with other types of goods. Consumers therefore time their spending on durables based on expectations of inflation, unemployment, and interest rates. Because of this, spending on household goods provides a good measure of consumer confidence.
Black Friday on 25 November 2022 was the day with the highest spend on household goods over winter 2022 to 2023, as with spending on clothing and footwear. Revolut data show how consumers spent more on Black Friday seeking to take full advantage of sales of expensive household goods items at a time of rising prices. Revolut card spending on household goods was 55.1% higher than the day before and 55.3% higher than the day after.Back to table of contents
As well as recording daily spending data for different types of goods and services, Revolut also provides information on whether the spending was online or in stores.
Total spending in Figure 3 shows the limited impact of events this winter such as the FIFA World Cup, rising prices, or industrial action. However, when breaking down this total by online and in-store proportions, Revolut data show no notable decrease of in-store spending on the two days closest to Christmas with rail strikes. Over 16 and 17 December 2022, in-store spending remained flat.
Over the winter, when comparing online and in-store spending, Revolut data show limited effects of any substitution between the two. With Royal Mail workers taking industrial action over 25 November 2022 (Black Friday), consumers were expected to do more of their Christmas shopping in store. This appears to have not been the case as in-store spending remained flat between 25 November and 18 December 2022 before shoppers rushed into shops and increased their in-store spending to a high on 22 December 2022. At this point delivery for Christmas Day becomes risky or unlikely.
Industrial action taken by workers on parts of the railways did not lead to a significant reduction in the value of in-store transactions, on the 13 to 14 and 16 to 17 December 2022. Similarly, usual winter events such as Black Friday internet sales as well as risk and uncertainty of delivery before Christmas were not significantly affected despite industrial action.
The share of online sales in December 2022 fell to 25.4% from 25.9%, a small decrease. This is also seen in other card spending data in Barclays UK consumer spending report (PDF, 1,279KB). If postal strikes in December 2022 potentially pushed consumers on to the high streets and away from online, then the change was very small.Back to table of contents
Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain: household finances
Dataset | Released 10 February 2023
Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) of people’s experiences of changes in their cost of living and household finances in Great Britain.
Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 17 February 2023
A series of retail sales data for Great Britain in value and volume terms, seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted.
A card linked to a secured or unsecured open-ended credit account, including revolving or non-revolving consumer, business, or commercial credit or charge accounts.
A card linked to a demand deposit account, checking account, current account, negotiable order of withdrawal account, or savings account held at a financial institution.
Debit and credit card transactions
These cards facilitate the transfer of money for goods and services rendered without the usage of cash. These transactions occur both in-person through contactless and chip and pin, and online through mail order or ecommerce. All card data that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) receive are anonymised and aggregated to protect against disclosure of individuals’ consumer data.
Financial payment system
Debit and credit cards are provided by card issuers that enables consumers to make payment transactions. Once a consumer attempts a transaction, this transaction is routed through a merchant acquirer, card scheme, and the card issuer as part of the payment validation process.
Inflation is the rate that the prices of goods and services bought by households rise or fall (consumer price measure). It is estimated by using price indices. For an overview of the indices and their uses, please see our Consumer price indices, a brief guide: 2017 article.
Nominal and real value
Nominal values are those with the impact of inflation present, while real values are the nominal values that have been adjusted to account for inflation.Back to table of contents
Revolut is a financial technology company and a card issuer within the financial payment ecosystem. They provide debit cards on behalf of card schemes to a fast-growing customer base in the UK and several other international markets. Revolut customers can use both physical and virtual Revolut debit cards for purchases and transactions both in store and online.
Within the UK financial transaction ecosystem there has been a shift away from cash as a payment medium in favour of card spending, as detailed the Bank of England's Update on the future of Wholesale Cash Distribution in the UK, using UK finance data. This results in indices being uplifted over time in areas where consumers replace typically low value cash transactions with low value card transactions instead. Users should interpret long-term trends with this in mind.
These data, although not adjusted for inflation, can be used to monitor how reactive consumers are to economic changes, through focusing on spending on discretionary goods and services.
Merchant Category Composition (MCC) breakdown
Clothing and footwear, includes:
men’s and boys’ clothing and accessories stores
women’s ready to wear stores
women’s accessory and speciality shops
children’s and infants’ wear stores
family clothing stores
sports and riding apparel stores
furriers and fur shops
men’s and women’s clothing stores
tailors, seamstresses, mending and alterations
wig and toupee stores
miscellaneous apparel and accessory stores
Food and drink, includes:
grocery stores and supermarkets
freezer and locker meat provisioners
candy, nut and confectionary stores
dairy products stores
miscellaneous food stores
convenience stores and speciality markets
package stores beer, wine and liquor
local and suburban commuter passenger transportation
taxicabs and limousines
steamship lines and cruise lines
airlines and air carriers
flying fields and airport terminals
travel agencies and tour operators
transportation services - not elsewhere
direct marketing travel related arrangement services
non-financial institutions - foreign currency, money orders, travellers' cheques
trailer parks and campgrounds
eating places and restaurants
drinking places (alcoholic beverages) - bars, taverns and nightclubs
fast food restaurants
art dealers and galleries
sporting and recreational camps
dating and escort services
health and beauty spas
motion picture theatres
video tape rental stores
dance halls, studios and schools
theatrical producers (except motion pictures) and ticket agencies
bands, orchestras and miscellaneous entertainers - not elsewhere
billiard and pool establishments
commercial sports, professional sports clubs and athletic fields
video game arcades and establishments and exhibits
public golf courses
video amusement game supplies
amusement parks, circuses, carnivals and fortune tellers
membership clubs (sports, recreation, athletic), country clubs and private clubs
aquariums, seaquariums, dolphinariums, zoos
recreational services - not elsewhere
Household goods, includes:
landscaping and horticultural services
telecommunications equipment and telephone sales
paints, varnishes and supplies
home supply warehouse stores
lumber and building materials stores
glass, paint and wallpaper stores
nurseries, lawn and garden supplies stores
furniture, home furnishings and equipment stores - except appliances
floor covering stores
drapery, window covering and upholstery stores
fireplaces, fireplace screens and accessories stores
miscellaneous home furnishing speciality stores
household appliance stores
direct marketing insurance services
Opinions and Lifestyle Survey data
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) collect and publish fortnightly social insights on daily life and events, including cost of living, in our Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain bulletin. This is produced from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN). Further detail can be found in our Opinion and Lifestyle Survey QMI.
Retail Sales Index (RSI)
The Retail Sales Index (RSI) is an important economic indicator and one of the earliest short-term measures of economic activity. It is used in the creation of the national accounts and widely used by private and public sector institutions, particularly by the Bank of England and HM Treasury, to assist in informed decision and policymaking. Further details can be found in our Retail Sales Index QMI.Back to table of contents
Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 21 December 2023, ONS website, article, How discretionary spending has been affected in recent winters, UK: 2019 to 2023
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