Cheaper clothes pull down February UK inflation - ONS
A sharp but temporary decline in clothing prices led to an unexpected fall in the UK's inflation rate in February, according to The Office for National Statistics (ONS). It said on Wednesday the The UK’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate fell to 0.4% last month, down from 0.7% in January.
Clothing and footwear prices fell between January and February for the first time since 2007 and are 5.7% lower than a year before, the biggest annual decline since November 2009. It reflects a sharp decline in clothing and footwear purchases due to pandemic-induced lockdowns. However, purchases are expected to bounce back once lockdowns end next month.
Although February is traditionally a month when clothing prices would rise, ONS deputy national statistician, Jonathan Athow said the impact of the pandemic "has disrupted standard seasonal patterns”.
Analysts had expected inflation to rise slightly, driven by increasing fuel and energy prices. But the impact of rising fuel costs was offset by a big reduction in purchases of clothing and the downward pressures in other areas, including travel costs and toys, the report said.
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon, said that despite inflation's "sudden drop due to temporary weakness in clothing prices" he still expected the rate to exceed 2% later this year.
"The lockdown has left clothing retailers with considerable excess stock to shift. Clothing prices likely have rebounded this month, now that retailers have introduced new seasonal ranges," he said.
Hannah Audino, economist at PwC, told the BBC that as lockdowns ease, inflation will tick higher as consumers "unleash some of the £150 billion of excess savings on the economy" built up during 2020.
"Businesses will also be looking to recoup lost revenues from the past year, although the extension to the VAT cut for the hospitality and leisure sector will continue to exert some downward pressure on prices”, she added.
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