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UK inflation basket now includes hand sanitiser, canned cocktails and hamsters

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has done its annual re-jig of items used to measure consumer inflation – and it shows what Brits have been up to in lockdown.

The shopping baskets of items used in compiling the various measures of consumer price inflation are reviewed each year. Some items are taken out of the baskets and some are brought in to make sure the measures are up-to-date and representative of consumer spending patterns.

In 2021, 17 items have been added to the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) basket and 10 items have been removed.

Items added include hand sanitiser, men’s loungewear trousers, hand weights, cappuccino sachets, jigsaws, cocktails in a can, small pets and smart watches.

Items removed from the basket include ground coffee, sandwiches from a workplace canteen, white chocolate and Axminster carpets (usually used in commercial premises).

Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “The pandemic has impacted on our behaviour as consumers, and this has been reflected in the 2021 inflation basket of goods.

“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.

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

About 80,000 prices are collected on 720 goods and services in 140 locations for the inflation basket, which is used to calculate CPI inflation.

In theory, the basket should contain all consumer goods and services purchased by households and the prices measured in every shop or outlet that supplies them. In practice, the consumer price indices are calculated by collecting a sample of prices for a selection of representative goods and services in a range of UK retail locations including the internet.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The pandemic has brought big changes to our shopping habits. Last February, hand sanitiser was a niche purchase for seasoned festival attendees, but now everyone carries it everywhere.

“Similarly, while women had already embraced the concept of being comfy at home, men have decided to dress for their new lifestyle, so men’s loungewear trousers have been added to the basket. The ONS said it had seen a boom in face mask purchases too, but it isn’t convinced the demand will remain high once more people are vaccinated, so it hasn’t added them to the basket.

“Coronavirus wasn’t the only thing changing how we shop: the basket also reflected key trends. This includes the growth of smart technology at home which means smart watches and smart bulbs were added, and the gradual move away from petrol and diesel cars, resulting in the addition of electrical and hybrid cars.”