A slowdown in non-essential spending in March saw restaurants face another challenging month.

Restaurants spend was down -12.6%, with transaction growth at -15%, consistent with the fall witnessed in February, and dampened by recent wet weather. 

According to Barclays, overall consumer card spending growth flatlined in March, on par with February’s 1.9% uplift, and significantly less than the latest CPIH inflation rate of 3.8%.

For the eating and drinking out market, this represented overall spending growth of 2.6%, and transaction growth of 0.1%.

On a positive note, pubs, bars and clubs saw stronger growth than in February, at 3.2%  compared to 1.1%, as punters gathered to watch Six Nations and FA Cup fixtures, and to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Takeaways and fast food saw a comparable 3% in spend growth and -0.7% drop in transaction growth.

Comparatively, retail spending remained almost flat at 0.7%, brought down by falling in-store spending. 

Karen Johnson, head of retail at Barclays, said: “Retailers were braced for a more subdued start to 2024, and recent figures are in line with expectations. The wet weather has been a key factor in the slowdown in discretionary spending, as it’s meant fewer visits to the high street and to hospitality venues.

“However, in spite of this initial lull, many retailers are confident that spending will rebound in the coming months, particularly in anticipation of better weather, the energy price cap drop, an uplift in the National Minimum Wage, and the buzz around major events such as Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and the Paris 2024 Olympics.”

Jack Meaning, chief UK economist added, “While still only tentative, the signs that the UK economy is expanding into 2024 continue to build.

”With an expectation that the Bank of England will cut interest rates from June, and banks responding by reducing mortgage rates, our research suggests that the housing costs that have been a drag on consumers for over a year are on the cusp of a turn, and will become a boost to spending from H2 and beyond. Today’s data shows this transition happening in real time.”