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Lockdown continues to weigh heavily on shop prices – BRC

Shops prices continued to fall in March, industry research showed on Wednesday, as embattled retailers discounted goods.

According to the latest BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index, shop prices fell by 2.4% year-on-year in March, in line with February’s annual fall, or by 0.1% month-on-month.

March’s figure was worse than both the 12-month and six-month averages price decreases, of 1.8% and 2.0% respectively.

Food inflation edged up to 0.3%, compared to February’s 0.2% improvement, although that remains below average.

But non-food inflation fell 4.0%, compounding the 3.9% decline seen a month previously.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The third consecutive month of lockdown led many non-food retailers, especially clothing, to heavily discount their products.

“Prices of fashion and footwear have seen double digit declines in 11 of the past 12 months, highlighting how those worst hit have been working hard to tempt consumer spending.”

However, Dickinson warned that prices could start to rise again this year. “Many retailers may not be able to sustain these low prices in the coming months. Rising global food prices, at their highest since 2014, as well as increased oil prices and shipping costs, and Brexit red tape, will likely begin to filter through, pushing up prices at the tills,” she said.

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at Nielsen, said: “With consumer spend limited by pandemic restrictions, non-food retailers are keeping any supply side driven price increases to a minimum and in some cases are reducing prices, to encourage shoppers to maintain spending in the run up to Easter.

“While non-food retailers have seen top line sales grow at around 9% since the start of the year, we are now lapping the extreme comparatives of March last year, and shop price inflation in food still remains very low and less than CPI [inflation].”

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