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UK consumer spending on household, Q4 2014

This sector report appears in Where’s Britain Spending? – a quarterly report from Barclaycard on consumer spending in the UK. To read the full report, please use the download link below.

04 Feb 2015 09:00

The fourth quarter of 2014 was a mixed picture for spending in the household category. The relatively flat spending in this category overall may be a result of the slightly cooler property market in the UK. As mentioned in our Q3 report, a greater number of housing transactions inevitably leads to higher spending at DIY and furniture stores, as homeowners look to decorate their new properties.

Liam Bailey, Residential Research Director at Knight Frank, says that the housing market was not as strong at the end of the year as it was earlier in 2014. “I think there’s recognition that there’s not a huge amount of room for significant growth in central London at the current time,” he says. “Current rates of growth are sustainable in the UK outside of London, but they’re ultimately capped by the state of the real economy.”

During the quarter we did, however, see average transaction values for household rising to 0.9% after showing negative growth in the second and third quarters of 2014. This suggests that consumers are making fewer purchases, but are buying items of higher value. It may reflect consumers’ growing willingness to splash out on big-ticket purchases, including items for the home, as recorded in our confidence survey.

In addition, where the mild weather may have had a negative effect on clothing sales, its impact on spending at garden centres appears to have been much more positive. With growth above 5% year-on-year in October and November, the rate was notably higher than the same two months in 2013. In that year, the rate was just 1.2% and 1.8% respectively. The warm autumn weather is again likely to be a factor here.

Spending on electronics during this quarter was, however, less promising than might have been expected during the run-up to Christmas. We saw spending slump after a strong October, with growth relatively low for the entire quarter at 4%, down from a rate of 12% in the third quarter.

While Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 and Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 4 may help to explain the strong figures for the third quarter of 2014 – as well as the continued strong growth into October – it is interesting that the high volume of electronics sales on Black Friday did little to lift the quarter overall.

In December, John Lewis Retail Director Andrew Murphy told the Financial Times that the retailer had seen consumers holding off buying some electronics products during November in the expectation of a discount on Black Friday, which fell at the end of the month. Our figures suggest that any volume gains were offset by loss of margin.

Black Friday also affected people’s spending plans for December. According to Ray Kavanagh, Director of Finance at House of Fraser, “Black Friday probably accelerated the discounts and spend pattern on electronics. Customers who were going to buy an electrical product for Christmas bought on Black Friday instead.”

Oct 14

Nov 14

Dec 14

DIY stores

5.7%

6.3%

7.2%

Electronics stores

11.5%

-0.2%

2.0%

Furniture stores

2.9%

2.1%

-1.8%

Garden centres

5.5%

5.4%

2.9%

Household overall

6.2%

4.1%

3.7%

To find a selection of our latest and most recent consumer spending reports please visit our report hub.