Lunch with a glass of fizz – is this what shoppers really want?
PUBLISHED: 11:15 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:00 10 May 2019
Shops on the high street are suffering but spending continues in Norfolk’s restaurants, bars and cafes.
That is the new finding which shows an upward trend in people spending on going out but apparently at the expense of retailers who, in contrast, are feeling the pinch.
It seems consumers would rather buy lunch out than clothes, home furnishing - or even travelling, with airline ticket sales also in decline.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said shop sales failed to meet expectations in April despite recording an annual 4.1pc jump which reflected the timing of the Easter holidays, compared with a 0.5pc decline in March.
Separate figures from Barclaycard also showed consumers were more willing to spend last month, especially in bars and restaurants, and independent businesses seem to be doing better than many of the chains.
Jayne Raffles, who runs the Library restaurant in Norwich, said there was a real buzz in the city, boosted by the good weather over the Easter bank holiday, the football and the Brexit delay.
"Customers do seem to be more prepared to spend a little more for example bottles of wine rather than a glass," she said. "Norwich is having such a positive year. We are finding people are looking for good value. We have our courtyard ready for the summer sun and are really looking forward to the next few months."
Ecky Limon, who runs the Blue Joanna bar on Unthank Road in the Golden Triangle, said the fact it was a smaller venue in a good location helped. "It's packed all the time. What I offer is pretty unique with live music, vinyl records and Asian style street food and we're not open during the day."
At Cafe 33, on Exchange Street, another independent business, it's so popular at lunchtimes, they have a waiting list for a table.
A spokesman said: "It's just so busy, every day. I think the fact we offer some gluten free options means we are popular. We joined the vibrant Norwich cafe scene in 2006, and we haven't stopped since."
While retail has taken a knock, shops which tap into providing an experience continue to thrive.
Jarrold department store is opening a fourth restaurant to add to the three eateries, a coffee bar, deli and wine bar already in store. It has reinvented itself and while you can still get a cup of tea and a scone, you can also sit up at a bar with a glass of fizz and a bowl of olives.
Carole Slaughter, marketing manager, said: "We realise people want to do more than shop, they want to have a bit of lunch, a glass of wine, that's how we perceive what people want to spend their money on."
Tourist attractions are also seeing an upward trend in people spending on food and drink. A spokesman from Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham, said its café sales had increased by 8pc over Easter compared with last year.
"It has shown considerable growth over the last 12-18 months, we are seeing particular success in our food and drink offering. Our gift shop is a little bit behind, however we realise that retail is an extremely challenging environment to be in at the moment, so we are continuously reviewing product lines and ways of communicating this to our visitors and local residents.
"With the current figures we are certain that visitors are making the most of their days out, with local residents and annual members returning regularly to make the most of eating out and shopping."
Joshua Bamford, director for the Norwich-based Centre of Retail Research, who tracks shopping trends, said there had been a complete lifestyle change.
"Twenty years ago people tended to go out once or twice a month whereas now some people dine out every night, not spending £50 each but to many of the cheaper establishments," he said. "I think parents are older than they used to be and it's all about the experience, people are spending their pensions and are looking for more enjoyment from life.
"I also think people aren't moving house as much, so they're not spending as much on a new home."
Barclaycard said spending at pubs and restaurants increased 13pc and 10pc in annual terms respectively, contributing to a 2.5pc rise in overall consumer spending last month. By contrast, airline spending fell by 4.8pc, the weakest performance for the category since Barclaycard started tracking it in 2015.
Barclaycard said the latest delay to the Brexit deadline until the end of October, combined with warmer weather, seemed to have boosted the mood of Britons - 33pc of consumers felt confident about the economy, up from 26pc in March.
But shoppers remained cautious - 61pc said they expected no change to their spending plans for May and only one in 10 said they were likely to spend on big-ticket items due to the Brexit delay.
What Britons spend their money on (latest available ONS figures from April 2017 to March 2018):
The average weekly household expenditure in the UK was £572.60 in the financial year ending 2018; the highest weekly spend since the financial year ending 2005, after adjusting for inflation.
Transport was the category with the highest average weekly spend of £80.80, equivalent to 14pc of households' average total weekly household expenditure.
Households with heads aged 50 to 74 years spent almost a quarter of their housing expenditure costs on alterations and improvements.
Households with heads aged under 30 years spent the most on takeaway meals eaten at home, £7.80 and £8.60 respectively.
Households' average weekly spend on alcoholic drinks away from the home was less in the financial year ending 2018 (£8) compared with 10 years ago (£10.90), after adjusting for inflation.
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