Wednesday 20 May 2020 3:59 pm

UK inflation: What are people buying during coronavirus lockdown?

There was further confirmation of the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis this morning when new figures revealed a slump in inflation.

The UK inflation rate tumbled to just 0.8 per cent in April, down from 1.5 per cent the previous month and marking the lowest level since August 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Collapsing oil prices and a slump in shopping during the lockdown were both key factors in the sluggish figures.

However, rising demand for some consumer goods served to partially mitigate this fall as Brits looked for ways to stay entertained during the pandemic.

Read more: UK inflation rate plunges to lowest level since 2016 amid coronavirus

The lockdown losers

The main drag on the consumer prices index (CPI) — the measurement that determines inflation rate — was a sharp decline in energy and petrol prices.

Ofgem’s energy price cap played a key role in this, as electricity prices edged up only 0.2 per cent in the month between March and April while gas prices dropped 3.5 per cent.

Petrol prices also plunged 10.4p per litre — the largest monthly fall since unleaded petrol was introduced in 1990.

The decline was largely caused by a collapse in crude oil prices due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumption levels dropping 70 per cent due to travel restrictions.

Clothing and footwear also suffered a significant drop in the latest figures as Brits decided not to update their wardrobes during the lockdown.

Overall, clothing prices fell 2.3 per cent, driven by large-scale discounting by retailers hoping to counteract a decline in sales.

The only mitigation came from knitting wool, which enjoyed a price bump as people stayed at home.

Read more: BoE’s Andrew Bailey: It would be ‘foolish’ to rule out negative interest rates

Pandemic purchases

As the UK ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak, Brits splashed out on leisure and entertainment activities to fill the time.

School closures prompted a sharp rise in prices for games, toys and hobbies, with items such as video games, craft kits and dolls contributing to an overall rise of 0.5 per cent.

Adults also got in on the fun, with software, CDs, DVDs and music downloads all ticking up.

The price of books tumbled, largely due to sales, though prices were still up on the same period last year.

Brits found other ways of passing the time, too, with the second largest rise in prices coming from alcohol and tobacco.

While restaurants and hotels have been forced to close their doors during the lockdown, prices did tick up marginally over the month.

This was largely driven by fast food and takeaway services, some of which remained open to consumers. The biggest price increases were from pizzas and burgers, which rose 7.3 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively

Overall, food prices also contributed to the upward inflation. There was a sharp price increase for vegetables, possibly due to a switch from internationally to domestically grown produce.

Stockpiling also contributed to an increase with prices amid booming demand for items with a long shelf life such as frozen fish, frozen chips and jars of cook-in sauce.

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