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The return to schools and offices boosted UK social spending in September, according to card transaction data that provide the strongest signs of normalisation of consumer habits since the start of the pandemic.

Spending on entertainment rose 28 per cent last month compared with the same period in 2019, Barclaycard data showed on Tuesday. This is the fastest pace in more than two years as new film releases, gigs and theatre shows encouraged Brits back to venues.

Pubs, bars and clubs, meanwhile, revealed spending climbed 43.5 per cent, which boosted the overall amount to 13.3 per cent above 2019 levels, Barclaycard data showed.

“The return of pupils and workers to schools and offices helped many sectors to see strong uplifts in September,” said Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard.

Following panic buying with the fuel crisis and climbing petrol prices, spending on fuel rose 11 per cent, the fastest pace in more than two years.

Barclaycard represents nearly half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions, providing an insight into spending trends last month ahead of official economic data that are published with a considerable time lag.

The shift to social spending was reflected in weakening retail sales, separate numbers from the British Retail Consortium revealed. Retail sales grew 0.6 per cent in September compared with the same month last year, down from 3 per cent in August and from 6.4 per cent in July.

The food and drink sector put in a lacklustre performance in September, BRC data showed, while sales growth strengthened for footwear and fashion, particularly formalwear with many workers returning to the office this autumn.

“The fourth quarter looks challenging as the economic recovery is dependent on strong retail sales during the festive season,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium.

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