The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the national retail sales volumes in April have grown stronger than the forecast. This was evident by payment card use; the number of card purchases rose to a record 1.4 billion transactions, up by 1.2% on March. The main contributors to this increase have been the ongoing migration of cash payments to cards, enhanced by increased use and acceptance of contactless cards. The number of contactless payments accounted for 30% of total purchases, up from 16% a year ago.

Card spending also recorded a robust increase and reached £58.0 billion, which was £360 million (+0.5%) above the level recorded a month ago. Spending online amounted to £15.1 billion, accounting for 26% of total spending, up from 22% in April 2016.

 

Monthly expenditure (£billions


Spending on payment cards

Year-on-year growth rates

Spending on payment cards

Year-on-year growth rates

Average transaction values

The average transaction value (ATV) on card payments continued to decline to reach the lowest level since October 2000. The ATV fell by 29p between March and April to £41.86, compared to £43.83 a year ago and £50.54 at its peak in July 2011. The ATV for debit cards fell by 29p to £38.43, and the ATV for credit cards decreased by 30p to £53.55.

Within the sectors, the retail sales ATV declined by 7p to £29.69, while the ATV for services stood at £63.75, after decreasing by £83p. The larges decrease was registered in the vehicle sales & services sub- sector, which recorded an ATV fall of £2.39 in April, while financial services registered the largest increase, growing by £3.91 during the month. 

The ATV via the online channel declined by £1.67 and fell under £80 for the first time in record (£78.75), while the ATV on contactless cards picked up by 34p to £9.40.

Average transaction values

Spending by sector - retail sales and services

 

The number of transactions within the retail sector increased by 8.8 million (1.0%) to 891 million, with the corresponding spend rising by £201 million (0.8%) to £26.5 billion. Meanwhile, the number of transactions in the service sector grew by 8.0 million (1.6%) to 495 million, corresponding to a rise in spending of £105 million (0.3%) to £31.6 billion. 

The largest increase in retail spending came from the food & drink sub-sector, where spending reached a milestone of £10 billion spent within a single month after inceasing by £103 million on March. The mixed business sub-sector also contributed strongly registering an increase of £38 million to £2.8 billion. Meanwhile, spending on automotive fuels decreased slightly for the first time since January 2016 to stand at £3.0 billion.

The largest growth withing the services sector was registered at financial services; an increase of £181 million to £7.2 billion, driven by a surge in spending on securities. the entertainment sub-sector was also a strong contributor to growth after increasing by £67 million to £5.3 billion, mainly owing to increased spending at tourist attractions, restaurants and pubs.