High street spending doubles on Saturday after easing of English lockdown

Miles Brignall
Photograph: Vickie Flores/EPA

High street spending on enjoyed a much-needed boost as lockdown eased on 4 July but hairdressers benefited more than pubs and restaurants, according to an early snapshot of consumer behaviour.

As economists wait for hard data on the strength of consumer spending for this latest easing of lockdown restrictions, analysis of 3 million UK customers’ spending habits by the digital bank Revolut suggested that high-street spending on Saturday was double that of the previous weekend, despite only England relaxing lockdown restrictions, and ran at 86% of an average pre-Covid Saturday.

The company said the clear winners were barbers and hairdressers, which saw a 23% jump in spending compared with a normal Saturday before the coronavirus lockdown. People also spent more than they would have done previously, possibly reflecting higher charges to cover extra personal protective equipment required by salons.

Related: England eases lockdown: how pubs, hairdressers and restaurants will work

While spending in pubs was up 91% on the weekend before, Revolut said its data suggested sales were around half the levels it would expect on a normal Saturday.

Spending in restaurants was also subdued, it warned, as tills ran at 47% of an average Saturday night. Many restaurants chose not to open on Saturday, preferring to see how others got on. However, off-licences and wine merchants enjoyed a sales boost this weekend, with Revolut reporting Saturday’s spending was at 156% of pre-lockdown levels.

Its data suggested that the lifting of the travel ban led to lots of people booking flights for later this year. Spending with Ryanair on Saturday was up 2,798%. Spending on taxis, though, was at 50% of normal levels.

Revolut’s figures appeared to back up those from the retail analysts Springboard that found footfall in England’s high streets rose by 19.6% on Saturday and 28.3% on Sunday in comparison with the weekend before – but was half that of a year ago.

Diane Wehrle, a director of Springboard, said: Despite what are positive signs for the hospitality industry on the first weekend of reopening, it is essential to recognise that footfall remains at around half of the 2019 level, with a decline of -57.7% across all destinations in England on Saturday. As the industry takes small steps in reopening post pandemic, we recognise there is still a long way to go before the industry returns to normality.”

In a further sign that things are not yet back to normal, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said on Monday that car sales for the first half of 2020 were down 48.5% compared with the opening six months of 2019, with just 653,502 new cars sold.

The society said much of the damage was done in April and May, when sales fell 97% and 90% respectively, making it the lowest half-year total since 1971.

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