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While restaurants, bars and hotels were one of only two categories to register higher expenditure in the UK last month (April), Visa UK’s latest Consumer Spending Index revealed that spending in food and drink fell “at the quickest pace” since September 2013.

Of the eight categories monitored, six registered lower spending with only hotels, restaurants and bars, and health and education witnessing an increase – at +2.9% and +5% respectively.

Expenditure in food and drink categories meanwhile fell at the quickest pace since September 2013 – at -4.6% – after an ‘Easter-related boost’ in March.

Visa chief commercial officer, Mark Antipof, commented: “With inflation beginning to fall and wages growing faster than expected in recent months, it would have been easy to assume we might be over the worst of the consumer squeeze.

“Yet there has been no corresponding improvement in spending, with April’s 2% decline (in total spend) a simple repeat of what we witnessed in March.

“Low confidence levels amongst shoppers and the gloomy outlook for the UK economy are likely to have contributed to this continued caution.

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“It is clear that consumers remain in belt-tightening mode, with discretionary spending on furniture, electrical appliances and recreational activities worst hit.

Annabel Fiddes, principal economist , added: ”UK economic growth has slowed and the recent revival in wage growth has so far failed to translate into improved expenditure trends, adding to fears that spending will remain subdued in the coming months.”