The “basket of goods” began life in 1947, as a sample of everyday items that could be used to measure changes in the prices of goods and services. This was – and still is – used to help calculate consumer price inflation i.e. the rate at which the prices of goods and services bought by households rise or fall. Currently, around 180,000 separate price quotations are collected every month to compile the indices, covering around 730 representative consumer goods and services – these prices are collected in around 140 locations across the UK, from the internet and over the phone.
But the basket is not just a lesson in economics, its a measure of changing social trends – and unsurprisingly, this year’s basket reflects the fact that consumer spending patterns still being re-shaped by the pandemic.
The disappearance of men’s suits from the basket, in favour of smart jackets or blazers, reflects the continued popularity of working from home, while the appearance of the sports bra is related to the growth in exercising, the ONS said.
Other changes include the single doughnut leaving the basket as sales of individual cakes decline in favour of multipacks – another change attributed to home working. Meanwhile, continued high demand for antibacterial products sees surface wipes added whilst a boom in pet ownership during the pandemic has resulted in dog and cat collars entering the list.
Other societal changes are also reflected – with the increasing adoption of vegan and vegetarian diets meaning canned beans, chickpeas and lentils, as well as meat free sausages, are added.
The statistics agency said that it had this year added 19 items to the basket, while removing 15 and leaving 715 unchanged.
Meanwhile, it revealed further details of plans to change the way it presents and calculates UK inflation figures – with Britain facing its biggest cost of living increases in three decades, it has come under pressure over claims that the statistics fail to reflect the extent of the squeeze felt by the worst off.
The ONS said that alongside inflation figures for February, to be published next week, it would be launching a personal inflation calculator for individuals to work out their own experience and is also moving to improve data sources by working with retailers to obtain price “scanner data” straight from the till – to be included in headline inflation data from 2024.