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New data reveals spending on style and wellbeing takes priority in the lead up to Christmas

New customer spend data1 from Virgin Money shows that Brits were choosing to prioritise spending on style and wellbeing this autumn, in the spirit of treating themselves and loved ones ahead of the festive season.

The latest analysis of Virgin Money current account data1 shows customers increased spend by a total of £32.85m across lifestyle categories in autumn 2023 (September-November), which is 5% higher than in autumn 2022. Lifestyle categories include eating out, style, wellbeing, holidays, UK stays, keeping fit, memberships and subscriptions, and entertainment.

The number of transactions is also up by 2% year on year, suggesting consumer confidence is still climbing. With Black Friday sales starting earlier and lasting longer, it’s no coincidence that November saw the highest total spend across the season – with a total of £230.82m spent in this month alone – as shoppers look to make their money go as far as possible.

Consumers have also been making some seasonal switches when it comes to their spending habits, with wellbeing and style taking priority this autumn. The total amount spent on wellbeing across the season – which includes spending at cosmetics stores, health and beauty spas, barbers/hairdressers and beauty shops – is £33.8m. Spend here has risen by 6.5% in autumn vs summer and 3% year on year (autumn 2023 vs autumn 2022). Of the £33.8m, the largest single component (£13m) was spent at cosmetic stores (on things including make-up, gift sets, perfumes), while £3.6m was spent at beauty spas with people preparing for the festive period.

In the spirit of savviness, Virgin Money customers spending on wellbeing have been making the most of their money and benefiting from the savings offered by Black Friday sales – whether they were shopping for themselves or for Christmas gifts. Customers spent almost 20% more at The Perfume Shop in November alone, vs the combined total for September and October. Similar increases were seen for LOOKFANTASTIC and Lush – Virgin Money customers spent 13% more at LOOKFANTASTIC in November, compared to the combined total for September and October, and 14% more at Lush over the same period.

With winter weather well and truly here and Christmas celebrations kicking off early, Brits have clearly been bringing their wardrobes up to date ready for the festive party season, with spend on style – which includes money spent on clothes, shoes, accessories, jewellery etc. – increasing by 2% in autumn vs summer. The total amount spent across style in autumn is £124.53m, an increase of £2.5m on summer spend.

It’s clear Black Friday sales helped encourage Virgin Money customers to spend across the style category in November too. Customers spent £2.5m at ASOS this autumn but interestingly, spend jumped by a third in November compared to October. Similarly, a total of £18.1m was spent at Next this autumn, and while spend here was more consistent across the season, it still increased by 6% in November vs October.

New research with UK consumers2 also supports this thinking, as it reveals over half (57%) spent about the same or more on style and wellbeing this autumn, with four in ten (43%) saying this was because they were buying more clothes than usual, as they have lots of social plans and celebrations coming up ahead of Christmas and need new outfits, and a third (34%) stating they were making the most of the November sales, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The research2 also finds UK adults expect to spend an average of £493pp on Christmas this year, and one in five are expecting to spend more on Christmas (21%) this year compared to last year, with almost half (44%) admitting they are spending more because the price of everything has gone up – even though they’re buying the usual things, it’s costing more. With Christmas costs stacking up, it’s no surprise that Virgin Money’s customer data shows people were cutting back on spending across other areas in the run up to the festive season, including reducing their spend on eating out and holidays, implying people are continuing to work at balancing their budgets.

The total spent on eating out (spend at restaurants, bars, fast food etc.) by Virgin Money customers has fallen by £23.22m in autumn compared to the summer, which is a decrease of 8%. New research2 reveals a quarter of Brits spent less on eating out in autumn (28%), as they were worried about their finances, so have been cutting back on spending as much as possible (43%), while a third (33%) wanted to save money in autumn ahead of the festive period./p>

Interestingly, a quarter of UK adults2 (26%) admit they are planning to go out less than they typically would in December. More than half (55%) say this is because it costs too much to eat and drink out as the prices have increased so much, and a third (36%) say it’s because they’re trying to save money ahead of Christmas. A quarter (27%) also say the weather is putting them off.

Ruth Brougham, head of digital banking at Virgin Money, said "Customers are making the most of the seasonal sales to help their money go further and maximise their budgets, which is important for many in the run up to the festive season.

“While customers are prioritising lifestyle spending to treat themselves and their loved ones as we head towards Christmas, they are also cutting back on otherwise popular ways to spend, such as eating out and holidays, to balance their outgoings. This is understandable given that rising prices means this Christmas will be tighter than ever for many, but we want to reassure people that we are here help them stay on top of their finances and stick within their spending limits. From support with balancing their budgets so they can make the holiday season spectacular, to help with saving for those bigger life events, we're on hand to provide people with the tools, help and products they need to make the most of their money."

The Virgin Money mobile banking app is packed full of clever tools to help customers budget, top up savings and track their transactions to help people feel in control of their money, and Virgin Money also offers a wide range of savings products to help customers make their money work for them. View Virgin Money's savings range here .

About the research

1Customer spend data sourced from Virgin Money current account customers who have actively spent in one or more of the lifestyle categories between September 2022 and November 2023.

2Survey carried out by OnePoll with 1,000 UK adults, nationally representative on age, gender, region, between 5th-8th December 2023.