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BRC and Neilsen shop price index shows significant pick-up in April promotional activity

Fresh Food inflation eased to 1.5% in April, down from 1.9% in March. This is above the 12-month and 6-month average price increases of 1.3% and 1.4%, respectively.

Ambient Food inflation slowed to 3.2% in April, down from 3.4% in March. This is above the 12-month and 6-month average price increases of 2.2% and 2.4%, respectively. This is the second highest inflation rate since April 2013, the highest was in March 2019.

April saw a significant pick-up in promotional activity. The number of both Food and Non-Food discounted product lines more than doubled, compared to both last year and last month. For a while now we have observed a shift in promotional behaviour, whereby retailers are trading depth for breadth, with more lines on promotion, but shallower price cuts. The substantial increase in discounting this April is a testimony to shoppers’ reluctance to spend and to the intense competition within the industry. The Clothing & Footwear category saw the highest growth in promotions, followed by DIY, and Fresh Food.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at British Retail Consortium, said: “Consumers will be pleased to see a slowdown in the Shop Price growth for both food and other goods. This has been driven, in part, by the significant number of promotions that have taken place in April. There were more than double the number of product lines on discount this month compared to the previous, as retailers hope to recover ground after March’s disappointing sales figures. Intense competition may be benefiting consumers, but is cutting into the already slim margins of retailers. In order to be successful, retailers must invest in both their physical and digital offerings to ensure they can provide the customer experience consumers want. However, investment comes at a cost and unless the Government acts to reform the broken Business Rates system we may find more store closures and job losses on the horizon.

Mike Watkins, Head of Retailer and Business Insight at Neilsen, said: “The slowdown in shop price inflation this month is welcome news for shoppers who are now facing rising households bills across energy, travel and entertainment. Supermarkets continue to battle for shopper spend by offering attractive price cuts as seasonal fresh foods become available and non food retailers, coping with weak demand, are keeping price points competitive. However, many households are still cautious about spending, so we anticipate promotions continuing over the summer months to help the momentum in retail sales which was kick started by the late Easter and some warm weather.”