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MNI (London)
--March VISA Overall Spending -2.1% y/y Vs -1.0% y/y in February
By Jamie Satchithanantham
     LONDON (MNI) - The UK's lethargic consumer spending run showed no signs of
abating in March, with lacklustre sales growth taking quarterly household
outlays to a five-year low, data from Visa revealed Monday.
     A pre-cursor to official retail sales data, Visa's UK Consumer Spending
Index pointed to a further slide in household spending in March, with consumers
and businesses blighted by the bad weather. Year-on-year, consumer spending was
down 2.1%, extending the respective falls seen in January (-1.2% y/y) and
February (-1.0% y/y).
     That meant that over the quarter, Visa's measure of consumer spending was
down 1.4% when compared to Q1 2017, the worst quarterly performance since Q4
2012.
     --EASTER IMPACT
     The data, however, is non-seasonally adjusted and given Easter fell
entirely in April last year, the associated timing effects will have attributed
for a large chunk of the March slide. 
     The only sectors to register growth in March were food and drink (5.7% y/y)
and hotels, restaurants and bars (4.2% y/y), likely boosted by Easter
celebrations. 
     Both face-to-face spending and online spending took a hit in March.
Face-to-face sales were down 3.0% y/y in March, following falls of 4.0% and 2.4%
in January and February respectively.    
     --ONLINE SALES FALL
     Online sales growth, positive in both January and February, also found room
to contract in March, down 1.2% y/y. This was the first fall in 10 months and 
suggests the weather alone was not to blame for the tapered spending appetites
but that confidence remains fragile.      
     "The negative impact that the 'Beast from the East' had on UK economic
activity last month has been widely reported, but this doesn't entirely explain
March's lacklustre consumer spending. We are in the midst of a dip in consumer
confidence and this - coupled with other economic factors - is causing shoppers
to continue to restrain themselves," Mark Antipof, Chief Commercial Officer at
Visa, said.
     Visa's UK Consumer Spending Index uses card transaction data based on all
Visa debit, credit and prepaid cards. According to Visa, such spending accounts
for an average 2.3billion transactions every quarter, roughly one pound in every
three spent in the UK.   
--MNI London Bureau; +44 203-586-2226; email: jamie.satchithanantham@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MABDS$,M$B$$$,M$E$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com

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