'Murky' outlook as spending slows
The continuing squeeze on household incomes saw consumer spending growth slow during January, according to figures from Barclaycard.
It grew by just 2.2% for most of the month and though the overall increase was 4.2%, this was skewed by a four-day period flattered by comparisons with a spell depressed by heavy snow last year.
Spending had grown by 3% in November and 2.9% in December in the run-up to Christmas.
The slowdown in January was blamed on the continuing fall in real wages, with pay still lagging behind inflation, squeezing household finances.
Spending on utilities was down 14.8%, with less energy needed for heating homes as the weather was milder this year, while supermarket spending was off by 1.7%.
However, restaurant spending was up by 16.6%, for women's clothing it rose by 11.3%, and hotels saw an increase of 8.9%, according to the data from Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all UK debit and credit card transactions.
The average amount spent per transaction continued to come down, falling 3.3% on last year and 5.3% on 2012, as shoppers continue to search for value for money.
Val Soranno Keating, chief executive of Barclaycard, said: "The economic outlook for 2014 remains murky and mixed.
"Despite recent positive economic news, real wage growth has fallen by just over 2% for each of the past three years.
"If the economic recovery is to continue, we need to see improved consumer and business confidence flow through to actual wage increases."