Consumer spending grows in January
UK consumers have enjoyed a feel-good factor so far in 2016Reuters

Consumers kicked off the new year on an upbeat note as spending rose at its fastest pace in more than 18 months in January, according to data released on 8 February by payment business group Visa Europe and business survey firm Markit.

Consumer spending rose 2.7% year-on-year in January, the sharpest increase since May 2014 as shoppers in Britain shrugged off worries over a global slowdown and made the most of the traditional January sales.

"It's a feel-good start to the year for retailers and consumers, despite the global economic jitters," said Kevin Jenkins, UK & Ireland managing director of Visa Europe.

"Spending rose most prominently on the high street, though it still looks to be prudent rather than excessive at this stage."

The belated arrival of cold weather saw clothing spend grow 5%, after unusually warm temperatures had hit retailers in November and December, while high-street spending rose 2.5% compared to the corresponding period in 2014 to mark its best performance since May 2015.

Face-to-face spending had slipped 0.1% in December and the latest increase came as online retail, which surged 7.3% in the final month of 2015, saw growth slowdown to 4.6% in January.

"Leisure and hospitality continue to outperform as sectors, but clothing and footwear retailers were the real winners after a disappointing dip in December," Jenkins added.

"The arrival of the winter weather, combined with January sales, saw spend on warmer wears surge 5%. While e-commerce spend continues to grow strongly as ever, this is a clear statement by the high street that it can still attract customers."

A similar survey conducted by Barclaycard showed last week that consumer spending rose 3.8% in January, continuing the strong run of growth in 2015, as retailers cut prices during the traditional sale period.

Department stores – typically big discounters at the start of the year – and furniture shops recorded their strongest increase on record, gaining 12.6% and 11.3% respectively, while clothing spend grew 6.7%.