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Hand sanitiser, smart watches and hand weights for home exercise have been added to the basket of goods and services used to calculate the cost of living, in a sign of how spending habits have changed in Britain during a year of lockdown.
In a snapshot of a country learning to live with Covid-19, the Office for National Statistics said there had been a surge in spending on products designed to keep people safe and fit.
The ONS said turning bedrooms into workspaces had also had an impact on its choice of items. Reflecting the fact that suits have been left in the wardrobe as people have used their home as the office, the new basket includes men’s tracksuit bottoms and women’s sweatshirts.
The closure of gyms had forced people to exercise at home, leading to the inclusion of dumbbells and smart watches (which track exercise), while hand sanitiser – a niche product at the end of 2019 – had become a household staple within weeks of Covid-19 arriving in the UK early last year.
The ONS calculates inflation by monitoring monthly changes to the cost of an array of goods and services from pricing points across the UK, from online retailers and over the telephone. The basket is designed to represent spending habits and reflect change in consumer behaviour. Last year’s changes reflected the increased popularity of craft gins and self-tanning products.
This year, 17 items have been added to the basket, 10 removed and 729 left unchanged. Announcing the annual update, the ONS said it had taken note of the lifestyle changes forced on Britain as the public adapted to the coronavirus.
The shift in sales of new cars away from petrol and diesel models meant hybrid and electric cars were included. The ONS said the addition of smart/wifi lightbulbs was down to people making home improvements during lockdown.
Sam Beckett of the ONS 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.”
Other items included in the basket this year include couscous and pre-prepared frozen vegetables.
Items removed from the basket include:
White chocolate bars – which have been replaced by malted chocolate sweets, such as Maltesers.
Fruit smoothies – because evidence has shown a shift towards mixed fruit and vegetable drinks.
Ground coffee – which has been replaced by coffee sachets to reflect the trend towards all-in-one drinks.
Axminster/Wilton carpets – which have been removed because research and anecdotal evidence from retailers has indicated that this type of carpet is now used mainly in commercial premises.
The annual inflation rate as measured by the consumer prices index stands at 0.7% – below the government’s 2% target.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Hand sanitiser and dumbbells added to ONS ‘inflation basket’ as Covid changes habits | Inflation