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Economy

Clothes stores forced to slash prices through Covid-19 lockdowns send inflation tumbling as Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia collapsed

Inflation slipped back to just 0.6% last month in official data which laid bare the struggles of retailers to stay afloat at a time that has seen the collapses of both Debenhams and Arcadia.

The Office for National Statistics data highlighted how companies cannot push through price rises while shoppers face so much uncertainty over the Covid-hit economy.

The Consumer Prices Index including housing costs (CPIH) fell from October’s 0.9% to 0.6%.

On the consumer prices index stripping out housing (CPI), the fall in inflation was even sharper, from 0.7% to 0.3%.

While the biggest impact coming from recreation and culture which were hammered by lockdown closures, retail showed a worrying reversal.

Clothing prices fell sharply, albeit partly offset by the rising prices of video games and hobbies as people stayed at home.

Fashion and footwear prices slumped in March and April as stores slashed prices going into Covid. However, they moved up during the summer and into autumn as lockdowns eased.

Today’s data, however, shows that reversed again in November as retailers again were forced to discount.

High street stores have faced the toughest conditions in their peacetime history as shoppers have stayed away from city centres due to lockdowns and general health fears about visiting public spaces.

As London goes into tier 3 today, that is only set to worsen for the city’s struggling retail centres.

While that gives the Bank of England plenty more scope to keep interest rates low, it highlights the perilous state of the economy.

Today’s data also showed petrol prices have plummeted to just 112.6p a litre from 125.5p a year ago.

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