The cost of living increased at its fastest pace in almost 30 years in December, reveal the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Higher food and energy cost are driving the rise, with the UK’s Consumer Prices Index soaring a higher rate than economist had expected to 5.4 per cent from 5.1 per cent in November. Prices of furniture and clothing also surged alongside restaurant and hotel bills. According to data, inflation was at a four-and-a-half year high for clothing.
Concerns are mounting that shoppers will have less to spend on non-essential purchases, which could have a damaging effect on the fashion retail sector. Meanwhile, some small businesses are also struggling to cover their own increasing costs.
The last time inflation was higher was in March 1992, when it was 7.1 per cent. With gas and electricity prices expected to increase in April, there are concerns that it could reach such levels this year.
Dr Jackie Mulligan, expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force and founder of the local shopping platform, Shopappy, comments: “After two years of unprecedented disruption, our high streets are now being savaged by the highest inflation in three decades. Inflation is hitting small high street businesses from all angles. Customers have less to spend, raw materials are costing more, supply chains are being squeezed, interest rates are on the up and the cost to heat their premises is skyrocketing. It’s a panoply of pain.
“Reports from the thousands of small high street businesses we work with are that it’s tougher than ever right now. In the glaring absence of Government support, it’s down to consumers to support our small local retailers and help them to weather the storm in 2022. More than ever it’s crucial we all love local and shop local.”