Buy ‘value brands’, says minister as store prices rise at fastest pace in more than a decade | Economic news


A minister has been accused of being out of touch after suggesting consumers facing the steepest rise in in-store prices for more than a decade should buy ‘value brands’.

The 2.7% year-on-year price increase, reported by the British Retail Consortium-NielsenIQ price index, was the highest since September 2011 and up from 2.1% in March.

George Eustice, the environment secretary, said it would “undoubtedly put pressure on household budgets” already facing soaring energy bills.

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He told Sky News: “Generally speaking what people are finding is opting for some of the value brands rather than own brand products – they can actually contain and manage their family budget .”

Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden, said: “It’s woefully out of touch with a government without a solution to the cost of living crisis facing working people.

“People are seeing their wages go down, fuel and food prices go up, and families worry about how to make ends meet.”

Liberal Democrat Labor and Pensions spokeswoman Wendy Chamberlain said the comments showed that “Conservatives live in a parallel universe”.

Read more: Will the cost of living crisis or partygate decide at the polls?

She added: ‘Families and pensioners who can’t afford their weekly shop need more help, not condescending advice from a distraught minister.’

Other data from the Bank of England, showing a 10.6% increase in credit card borrowing in March compared to last year – the biggest growth since 2006, seems to add to the evidence of the pressure exerted on consumers.

Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said the £800million increase showed “how badly the cost of living crisis is really hitting households, with many already forced to put essential bills on their credit cards.

The latest figures will increase pressure on Boris Johnson to do more to tackle the cost of living crisis, just a day before local elections.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The impact of rising energy prices and the conflict in Ukraine continued to ripple through April retail prices.”

Food prices rose 3.5% on the year to April, from 3.3% in March.

But the rise slowed slightly for fresh produce, from 3.5% in March to 3.4% in April, which Ms Dickinson attributed to “fierce competition between supermarkets”.

“Global food prices have reached record highs, rising 13% in the last month alone, and even more so for cooking oils and grains,” she said.

“As these costs filter through the supply chain, they will put further upward pressure on UK food prices in the months to come.

“Retailers will continue to do all they can to keep prices low and deliver value to their customers by limiting price increases and expanding their value ranges, but this will push them to find cost savings elsewhere. .

“Unfortunately, customers should be prepared for further price increases and a bumpy road ahead.”

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How has inflation impacted everyday items?

Learn more: See how much your spending has increased over the past five years

Mike Watkins, head of retail and business insights at research firm NielsenIQ, said consumers are likely to curtail their spending habits in response to rising inflation and rising costs of living, like energy bills.

The Bank of England has warned that inflation – which hit 7% in March – could exceed more than 8% this year.

“With food retail no longer immune to these pressures, supermarkets are responding by cutting prices on some everyday groceries,” he said.

Prices for non-food items rose 2.2% in the year to April – the highest rate since records began in 2006.

That compares with a 1.5% increase on the year to March.

Ms Dickinson said furniture, electrical and books are seeing the biggest increases.

“This has been exacerbated by disruptions at the world’s largest seaport, following Shanghai’s recent lockdown,” she says.

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