Retail sales
Online sales grew at the fastest pace in 16 months in April. Reuters

Online spending grew at the fastest rate in over a year in April, as the so-called 'experience economy' continues to gain ground, figures released on Monday (9 May) showed.

According to the Visa's Consumer Spending Index, online spending grew 8.4% year-on-year in April, the fastest pace of growth over the last 16 months, while face-to-face expenditure figures were broadly level compared to the same period in 2015.

"While online prospered, face-to-face spending was relatively flat, highlighting the current discussion about the future shape of the high street as well," said Kevin Jenkins, managing director for Visa Europe in the UK and Ireland.

Overall consumer spending was 2.5% higher year-on-year in April compared with a 2.3% gain in the previous month, as seven of the eight categories surveyed registered an increase in spending. Britons preferred splashing money on experiences rather than items, the survey showed, with spending on recreation and culture and hotels, restaurants and bars registering a 7.9% and 6.6% increase respectively.

Customers spent 3% more on household goods than they did in the corresponding period 12 months ago, but expenditure across the food and drink categories slowed to a five-month low of 1.7%. The gain was even smaller in the transport and communication sector, which saw a 0.6% year-on-year uptick, while unusually cold weather was blamed for the 2.8% decline recorded in the clothing and footwear category.

"Growth in consumables remains evident, but consumer spending is increasingly focused on the experience economy," Jenkins added.

"Eating out, booking holidays and discovering new experiences are all driving spending growth at a time when the lower cost of living is creating higher disposable incomes. In a month of mostly growth, the only sector to disappoint was clothing and footwear, again highlighting this shift."