UK retailers hike rates by most since July 2011

Last month, British retailers hiked prices at the quickest rate in more than a decade, owing to rapidly rising food costs as well as increased energy and transportation expenses for stores, according to an industry association.

Last month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents supermarkets and other large retail chains, said that average prices among its members were 2.8 percent higher than a year ago, the largest yearly increase since May 2011.

The BRC’s estimate of inflation is more limited than the UK’s official consumer price index, which showed inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.0 percent in April, owing to rising energy prices and post-Covid delays.

According to market research firm NielsenIQ, British buyers are visiting more shops in quest of the cheapest goods.

In May, food prices on the BRC’s measure increased by 4.3 percent year over year, compared to a 3.5 percent increase in April, marking the highest increase in food costs since April 2012. Non-food costs increased by 2.0%.

“As a result of skyrocketing animal feed costs and near-record global food prices, items like chicken and margarine are witnessing some of the highest hikes,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted grain and vegetable oil shipments, as well as driving up energy costs, which had already risen sharply before the conflict began in February.

Food and non-alcoholic drink prices grew 6.7 percent in the year to April, according to the Office for National Statistics, which is higher than the BRC. The ONS data is more comprehensive than the BRC’s and does not include ‘buy one, get one free’ deals.

Dickinson predicted that stores will raise prices even more later this year, when the Bank of England expects consumer price inflation to approach 10%.

“With no indication that the financial burden on retailers will lighten any time soon,” she added, “they will be left with little space for movement, especially those whose supply chains are disrupted by Chinese lockdowns and the crisis in Ukraine.”

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