Data from Barclaycard also found takeaways and fast food saw the highest increase since tracking began for this sector (20.7%) in September 2019.
Elsewhere in the leisure sector, hotels, resorts and accommodation saw the smallest decline since lockdown started – down 19.1% year on year but this was an improvement on July, which saw a drop of 29.9%.
The research also found the nation’s confidence in the UK economy has fallen to its lowest of 19% since Barclaycard started this data six years ago, compared to 42% in January and February this year.
Spending on essentials grew by 5.1% and clothing spend saw a rise for the first time since March 2019.
Barclaycard head of consumer products Raheel Ahmed said: “It is encouraging to see the first uplift in spending after such a turbulent time for retailers.
“It seems the final throws of summer have spurred households to get out and about with closing stores, pubs and bars welcoming growth for the first time since lockdown began.
“However, despite the high street showing some signs of recovery, challenging times still lay ahead in certain sectors."
Ahmed added: “Months of lockdown has helped accelerate the trend towards digital, with surges in areas such as online ordering of takeaways and buying groceries, meaning the road to recovery may still be a long one for bricks and mortar stores.
“Retailers may take reassurance from the fact household confidence remains steady and of course, the restaurant sector also benefitted from the boost provided by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
“As this discount comes to an end and the lure of pub gardens slip away with the sunshine, we will see the resilience of businesses truly tested as we head into autumn.”