By Daniel Hunter

The UK's leisure, luxury and pampering companies are leading the growth of small businesses as consumers begin to loosen the purse strings.

According to data from Worldpay, Britons are putting global financial woes behind them to enjoy the high life, with antiques dealers, florists and beauty spas among the small businesses benefiting the most from the country’s new found financial optimism.

The research suggests that British consumers are once again reaching for their wallets to splash out on luxuries including posh outside caterers for birthday bashes, spa breaks and pampering sessions, in ways they haven't done since the boom years before the financial crash.

Worldpay’s analysis of card transactions over the past year shows a 12% rise in spending on private catering firms as Brits seek an upgrade to the cut-price celebrations of recent years.

Bands, orchestras and entertainers have seen takings surge by 38%, while a rise in orders for floral arrangements contributed to the 11% hike in sales seen by florists over the past year. Dry cleaners have also seen business rise by 7% with people getting dressed up for social gatherings more frequently.

The feel-good factor continues into the health and beauty sector, as pampering has also made a return. Health and beauty spas saw a rise in sales of 7% with beauty product shops and barbers enjoying 6% more business compared to the previous year.

Antique shops are also doing well from the country-wide spending spree, seeing a 5% sales increase nationally and art dealers and private galleries’ sales rose by 7% year on year.

James Frost, UK CMO at Worldpay, said: “Any rise in non-essential spending is great news for small business owners. But while consumers may well be relaxing their grip on the purse strings, business owners must think strategically about how to differentiate themselves in what remains a highly competitive market.

“Convenience is king and today’s discerning customers want freedom and flexibility to pay in the way that they choose. Cash-only businesses will see opportunities becoming more limited by the day as technology-savvy small business owners find themselves better equipped to take advantage of improved market conditions.”