UK consumers saving up until weekend before Christmas

  • Figures from Visa Europe’s Weekly Christmas Spending Tracker show consumer spend up on the previous week (+1.7%) yet down on the year (-2.9%) as consumers save their spending ahead of the last full weekend before Christmas
  • Online shopping still strong in the two weeks before Christmas, registering +2.3% increase on the previous year

London, 19 December 2012 - Shoppers appear to be saving their spending for a spree during the final full weekend before Christmas, according to the findings of the Visa Weekly Christmas Spending Tracker (covering week of 10th to 16th December). The data show that last week spend was down -2.9% year-on-year. Compared to the previous week, spend was up 1.7% demonstrating the incremental increase in spend ahead of the big day.

The Visa Weekly Christmas Spending Tracker uses adjusted Visa Europe card transaction data to provide a robust indicator of total consumer expenditure across all payment methods. With £1 in every £3 in the UK spent on a Visa card, the Tracker gives a uniquely comprehensive and timely insight into the health of consumer spending.

Consumers hunting bargains are still heading online in the fortnight leading up to Christmas, with spend up 2.3% year-on-year. The High Street suffered slightly with spend down -3.9% year-on-year but it should be noted that at this time last year the final weekend before Christmas had already been and gone, and so spend in 2012 appears to be behind by one week in comparison.

In a sign that consumers are beginning to stock up for Christmas, spend on food and drink was up 12.4% on the previous week while spend on clothing and footwear slowed though still remained in positive territory with spend up slightly on the week at 0.4%.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Steve Perry, Commercial Director at Visa Europe, said: "The way in which Christmas falls this year means that, in comparison to 2011, we appear to be a week behind in terms of consumer spending. This is borne out in the Visa Weekly Christmas Spend Tracker which shows that UK consumer spending is down -2.9% annually.

"With a week to go before the big day, it appears that shoppers are holding off their spending sprees until the weekend when we anticipate that Saturday 22nd December will be the busiest shopping day of the year, with consumers set to spend £1.26bn on their Visa cards alone.

"Competition for consumer spending is fierce with growing numbers of consumers still visiting online retailers to snap up bargains ahead of anticipated discounting on the High Street in the final furlong before Christmas."

Visa Europe predicts that Saturday 22nd December will be this year's busiest shopping day, with consumers set to spend £1.26bn on their Visa cards alone. Visa expects to process 31.9m transactions on Saturday with the hour between 14.00 and 15.00 set to be the busiest hour of the year.

How the Visa UK Christmas Spend Tracker is compiled:

The Visa UK Christmas Spend Tracker uses card transaction data to provide a robust indicator of total consumer expenditure across all payment methods. It is based on spending on all Visa debit, credit and prepaid cards which are used to make an average of over 1.9 billion transactions every quarter and account for £1 in £3 of all UK spending. Working with Markit, these card spending data figures are adjusted for a variety of factors such as card issuance, changing consumer preferences to pay by card rather than cash, and inflation. These adjustments mean that these data are distinct from Visa Europe’s business performance and the Tracker reflects overall consumer spending, not just that on cards.

About Visa Europe

In Europe, there are 460 million Visa debit, credit and commercial cards. In the 12 months ending June 2012 those cards were used to make purchases and cash withdrawals to the value of €1.8 trillion. 14% of consumer spending at the point of sale in Europe is with a Visa card, and almost 80% of that is on Visa debit cards.

Visa Europe is independent of global Visa Inc., with an exclusive, irrevocable and perpetual licence in Europe, while both companies operate to ensure global interoperability. As a dedicated European payment system Visa Europe is able to respond quickly to the specific market needs of European banks and their customers - cardholders and retailers - and to meet the European Commission’s objective to create a true internal market for payments.

Visa enjoys unsurpassed acceptance around the world. In addition, Visa/PLUS is one of the world’s largest global ATM networks, offering cash access in local currency in over 200 countries.

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