The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on the retail price index has continued to show an increase in prices in certain sections of non-essential retail with prices rising in clothing and footwear as the weather cooled in October, and the continued focus by consumers on their homes with increases in furniture and other household items.
This was offset by a decrease in prices in restaurants following the reduction in VAT.
This data shows that there was continued demand from consumers in certain sections of non-essential retail and that demand for some items was resilient in October. The pandemic is feeding through into consumer behaviour. While clothing prices rose, this was offset by a fall in high-heeled shoes as more people worked from home.
The current lockdown will have choked off the immediate prospect of recovery in non-essential retail in the key trading quarter of the year. The Government should allow this section of the economy to reopen after 2 December to enable retailers a chance to salvage something from the Christmas trade.
Inflation is still historically low, and this data is against a backdrop of rising unemployment and weak demand. The Government should consider a voucher scheme for small independent retailers to encourage consumers back to those types of stores with limited or no online presence so that our local high streets remain viable.