This week I am indebted to the Barclays Local Insights Report for some fascinating facts and figures about Ashford, which tell us all what is really happening with household spending in our area.
People in Ashford are spending 12.8% more than a year ago, partly of course simply because prices are higher. The first two largest groups of spending are predictable, in that they are groceries at 22% of total spend, and utilities at 11%.
The third largest category, which is digital content and subscriptions, might be slightly more surprising. This is also the fastest-growing category, which tells us a lot of how we are entertaining ourselves in the post-covid world.
How are we paying for all this? Average earnings in Ashford are £34,821, which is just below the national average. But a relatively high proportion, at nearly a third, are above the national average wage.
The biggest change in recent years has been the movement of spending to online locations. This is reinforced in these latest figures, with more than two thirds of general shopping done online. There is a similar figure for the percentage of entertainment consumed online.
Anyone complaining about the struggles of the high street should recognise the huge changes in consumer behaviour that we are seeing around us. Not just shops but cinemas and bars are having to compete harder to extract us from our sofas and phones.
One of the side-effects of this is the rapid change in attitudes to cash. One of the most arresting figures in this collection is that only 6.8% of transactions in Ashford use cash. It has become a very small minority that use cash on a regular basis.
Housing costs are always a key element of spending. In Ashford 57% of people own their home and are paying on average a mortgage of £1,005. This amounts to a fifth of their income. Let’s hope that we are now seeing the end of the Bank of England’s interest rate rises.