The Covid pandemic has seemingly changed the way we shop, with men's suits thrown out of the basket of goods used to calculate inflation, and pet accessories and disinfectant in, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
The move to work-from-home has consigned formal attire to the back of the wardrobe, according to economists at the agency. Doughnuts and coal were also removed from the list of products - a measure of the cost of services and products - at a time when the impact of higher prices on household’s cost of living is sharply in the spotlight.
The ONS’s virtual basket contains more than 700 items that are representative of the goods and services that people typically spend money on. The 'basket' measures the changing cost of products and services over time as well as the changing tastes and habits of UK consumers.
Changes mirror what is happening in society and seemingly the Covid pandemic is still influencing our behaviour two years after the beginning of the first lockdown.
New cleaning habits and a lockdown-led pet boom have seen antibacterial surface wipes and pet collars make the list. Meat-free sausages and canned pulses have also been added as more people cut down on animal products.
Sports bras will also now be included in the basket of goods, the ONS said, perhaps another indication of how lockdown has impacted our lifestyles.
Consumer price inflation (CPI) is the main measure of inflation in the UK and has been rising strongly as economies open up after the pandemic lockdowns.
Global supply chains and shortages of raw materials have pushed up prices, alongside rising oil and gas prices – leaving inflation at 5.5% in January.
The Bank of England predicts it could hit 7% within weeks, while economists warn it could breach 8% as the Ukrainian conflict impacts even more prices.
The ONS said: “New items have been introduced to diversify the range of products collected for already established groupings.
“For example, meat-free sausages have been added to expand the range of “free-from” products in the basket, reflecting the growth in vegetarianism and veganism.
“Antibacterial surface wipes have been added to the list of cleaning products to represent current cleaning trends together with the demand for antibacterial products in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic."
Other changes also include replacing double beds with king-sized ones; a tweak in the way children’s clothes are monitored to measure prices for those aged three to 13, instead of 18 months to 13 years old previously.