UK card spending shows pre-Christmas pick-up: ONS

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FILE PHOTO: People carry shopping bags as they walk past Christmas themed shop displays on Regent Street in London

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) -British consumer spending picked up in early December, in line with usual seasonal trends as people spent more in the run-up to Christmas, despite a surging cost of living, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Credit and debit card spending in the week to Dec. 1 – which included ‘Black Friday’ sales promotions – was 13 percentage points higher than a week earlier, according to interbank payments data, which the Bank of England provides to the ONS.

However, spending was flat compared with a year earlier – reflecting a sharp real-terms decline given the high rate of inflation, which hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October.

Compared with a year ago, spending on commuting and other work-related expenses was up by 16 percentage points and spending on socialising was 5 percentage points higher, but spending on discretionary items such as clothing and furniture was down by 10 percentage points.

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The BoE data contrasts with debit card transaction data from card provider Revolut, also published by the ONS on Thursday, which showed a 17 percentage point year-on-year rise in spending and a 4 percentage point increase in the week to Dec. 4.

The weekly increase in the Revolut data was driven by a 13-point rise in entertainment spending.

“Consumer behaviour indicators mostly showed increased activity in the latest week, in line with expected pre-Christmas trends,” the ONS said.

Britain’s most recent official retail sales data – which unlike the weekly numbers are adjusted for inflation and the time of year – showed that sales volumes in October were 6.1% lower than a year earlier.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William James)