The Bank of England will for the first time provide the UK's Office for National Statistic (ONS) with credit and debit card transaction data to better inform policy-makers about how people have been spending their money.
The ONS says the new data wil act as "experimental faster indicators" for monitoring UK purchases. They track the daily Chaps payments made by credit and debit card payment processors to around 100 major UK retailers, whether it be online, over the phone or in a store.
The Bank of England anonymises and aggregates the data before sharing with the UK's national statistical institute for publication.
ONS retail sales figures provide monthly estimates on what consumers are buying, and how much they are spending on items in stores and online, but the Chaps data brings an additional element to the mix with the capturing of the spends on social activities, such as sporting events, concerts, a meal or drinks in a pub or restaurant, haircuts, beauty treatments and train fares.
The data provided to the ONS has been broken down into four consumption categories - staples, delayable, work-related, social - as defined by the Bank of England. Each sector in the series is weighted according to its relative share of annual UK household consumption in Q4 2019.
"The categories allow us to see where money is being spent, and how this has changed over the period of the pandemic," says David Matthewson, branch head for faster indicators at the ONS. "The data will be updated weekly; and will be based on transactional data from January 2020 up until the Thursday of the week before publication so allows us to track differing trends near to real time. These transaction data represent a big step forward in our ability to see how purchasing habits have changed during all the stages of the pandemic so far and going forward, will continue to provide valuable insights."