UK's inflation shopping basket: hand sanitiser and loungewear in, white chocolate out

Pandemic’s influence on Britain's consumer spending habits reflected in latest virtual basket

Items added to the shopping basked include, clockwise from top left: hand sanitiser, hand weights for home exercise, Smart/WiFi light bulbs, casual clothing, hybrid/electric cars, smartwatches. The basket is reviewed annually to ensure it accurately measures changing costs over time and reflects the developing tastes and shopping habits of British consumers. Getty Images
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Hand sanitiser, dumbbells and loungewear were added to Britain’s consumer price index this month, reflecting the effect of the pandemic on the country’s shopping behaviour.

Seventeen items were added to the virtual shopping basket, while 10 were removed including white chocolate, which was replaced by treats such as Maltesers, and sandwiches ordinarily purchased at staff canteens, most of which are shut at the moment.

Sam Beckett, head of economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics, said the pandemic’s influence on consumer behaviour is reflected in the inflation basket.

“The need for hygiene on the go has seen the addition of hand sanitiser, now a staple item for many of us. Lockdown living has seen demand for home exercise equipment rise, while spending more time within our own four walls has also encouraged us to invest in smart technologies,” Ms Beckett said.

“A more casual approach to clothing, as more of us work from home, has seen the addition of loungewear into the consumer basket.”

Consumer price inflation is the rate at which the cost of goods and services bought by households rise or fall, with the prices of various items in a virtual shopping basket acting as in indicator of the movements.

The basket is reviewed annually to ensure it accurately measures changing costs over time and reflects the developing tastes and shopping habits of British consumers.

While some items are removed, others are added and this year 729 remained unchanged.

The introduction of hand gel reflects the huge rise in demand for the product over the last year, along with dumbbells, due to the nation's shift to working out at home, and loungewear, as Britons wear more comfortable clothes to work from home.

The new additions included smartwatches, indicating the growth of wearable tech, and hybrid or electric cars, reflecting the increase in sales of these types of vehicles as Britain looks to cease production of petrol-fuelled cars by 2030.

UK production of battery electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles rose 18.9 per cent in January compared to the same month last year, taking the total to 21,792 units.

Surprisingly, face masks were not added to the basket as their use is expected to decrease in the coming months and years.

Items removed from the list include ground coffee, which was replaced by coffee sachets, reflecting a trend for all-in-one beverages, and Axminster or Wilton carpets, a floor covering used more commonly in commercial premises.

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