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Household spending weakest in six years

HOUSEHOLD spending this year has had its weakest start since 2012 as families tighten their belts.

There was a 1.1 per cent annual fall in February, which followed a 1.2 per cent drop in January, Visa’s UK Consumer Spending Index finds.

For the tenth month in a row, face-to-face spending on the high street fell annually with a 2.5 per cent decrease — while online spending rose 0.2 per cent.

Visa’s Mark Antipof said: ‘Britons have been in belt-tightening mode since last summer. February’s snow didn’t alleviate this situation, particularly when we shine a spotlight on high street spending, and recreation and culture in particular, which saw its biggest decline (6.1 per cent) since April 2010.’

Clothes, footwear, household goods, transport and communication also suffered. However, hotels, restaurants and bars were the strongest performers, with a 4.4 per cent rise on last year. This was followed by a four per cent increase in areas such as health, beauty and jewellery.

Mr Antipof added: ‘As we look ahead, consumer spending is at risk of posting one of the worst quarter one results on record. Retailers will no doubt be hoping the milder weather will put a spring in shoppers’ steps.’

Annabel Fiddes, at IHS Markit, which compiles the index, said rising living costs, sluggish wage growth and subdued confidence ‘are all likely playing a part.’