British consumer spending fell 7.1 per cent year-on-year in 2020, as coronavirus restrictions hampered the high street and hospitality sectors.
However, lifestyle changes boosted growth for some sectors, with online grocery seeing the largest increase.
Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, revealed that spending on essential items rose by 4.1 per cent year-on-year in 2020.
This was largely driven by supermarket shopping, which saw an overall growth of 15.7 per cent, with online grocery shopping surging 70.3 per cent as the demand for delivery services increased.
These trends, along with lower prices at the petrol pump, also contributed to a decline in spend on fuel, which dropped by 20.3 per cent.
Clare Bailey, independent retail expert and founder of The Retail Champion, said: “Speaking to retailers, I am encouraged that many are continuing to shop where they live and support local businesses.
“While those retailers who depended on commuters have been seriously impacted by the reduction in footfall in 2020, it’s encouraging to see that some of this spend has been transferred to local companies.
“In addition, in such challenging times, many businesses have also been agile enough to adapt their local offering of products and services to support changing consumer demands.
“Despite the adversity this year has thrown into the mix, the positive connection which has grown between consumers and their local butchers, bakers or greengrocers is truly heart-warming and a trend I hope continues to thrive in 2021.”
Barclaycard’s report also found a positive outcome of 2020 was support for independent businesses flourishing, as many Brits chose to shop locally.
Specialist food and drink stores – which includes off licenses, butchers and bakeries – saw an overall uplift of 28.6 per cent year-on-year.
Sports and outdoor retailers enjoyed significant growth in 2020, rising 7.2 per cent overall, with the temporary closure of gyms encouraging Brits to purchase workout equipment and seek new ways to exercise inside and outdoors.
Support for florists also bloomed with purchases up 22.7 per cent as Brits treated themselves and showed friends and family they were missed from afar.
Many also took up new hobbies and crafts (9.8 per cent rise) and added new companions to their households, with vets and pets seeing a 10.7 per cent uplift in 2020.
Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “2020 has accelerated many trends.
“E-commerce has seen huge growth, working from home has meant many are shopping more locally and experiences within the home, such as virtual work outs have become the norm.
“Spending within the retail, travel and hospitality sectors has been acutely impacted.
“However, we have also seen many businesses become more agile and move online and the demand for online groceries, digital entertainment and subscriptions has been huge.
“Home improvement, DIY and gardening have also seen a boost, as we all spend more time at home and near our local communities.
“Hopefully with a vaccine being rolled out in 2021 we will see green shoots for the most severely impacted sectors.
“Having said that, some of the trends and changes we’ve seen in customer habits may be here to stay.”