Between the shopping sprees, consumers showed a clear demand for leisure activities. The entertainment category as a whole grew 12.8%, with pubs up 13.7% and restaurants up 13.1%, underpinned by office parties and family gatherings before Christmas.
Cinema spend spiked 81.9% during the week of release for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Growth more than doubled (109.6%) the following week, compared with the seven days prior to the debut – demonstrating the power the film commanded over wallets nationwide versus an average week.
Total retail spending grew 4% year-on-year over the Christmas period, but this growth was driven entirely by online shopping, which saw the strongest year-on-year increase since April 2012, jumping 17.9%. The high street suffered tough trading conditions, with in-store spending growth almost static at 0.2%.
The strong performance saw online sales account for a quarter (24.6%) of total spend, which has only once been surpassed, in January 2015 (25.4%).
Department stores were a bright spot on the high street, with in-store spend growing 4.5%, but even here digital dominated, as online spend increased 18%, resulting in overall department store growth of 7.2%.
Supermarkets witnessed a similar story: although in-store spend fell 0.7% in December, a boost of 13.5% to online sales meant the category was flat overall year-on-year. Average transaction values at supermarkets fell 4.8% overall as consumers continued to pursue value from their grocery shopping.
Chris Wood, chief operating officer at Barclaycard, said: “In many ways, this Christmas brought to the fore all the shopping trends of 2015. The large spikes in spending, centred around sales days like Black Friday, emphasise consumers’ increasing search for value as they hold back their spending until the best deals emerge. Likewise, whilst online shopping has grown in popularity throughout the year, the strength of consumer preference for digital over the high street was seen in full effect over the Christmas period. As retailers continue to release their Christmas trading updates we expect many to reflect these changing behaviours.
“In terms of what consumers purchased, a large proportion of spend went towards activities and experiences, such as a Christmas dinner out or a night at the cinema. Looking ahead to 2016, it will be interesting to see where UK consumers choose to spend their money, and how the continuing shift towards the purchasing of experiences and services, as opposed to goods, develops and what that will mean for the retail sector.”