By David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Prices in British shops in January were 8.0% higher than a year before, the biggest annual increase since at least 2006 when comparable records started, figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed on Wednesday.
Inflation hit a record high in all the main categories monitored by the BRC, led by a 15.7% increase in the cost of fresh food, which reflected high wholesale prices for fruit and vegetables and increased processing costs.
Overall food prices, which include longer-life goods, rose by 13.8%, while non-food prices were 5.1% higher.
Many British households have been hit hard by a surge in the cost of living since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. On Monday the Office for National Statistics said 5% of homes reported running out of food and being unable to buy more.
The Bank of England has forecast that inflation will remain high over the coming months before falling later in 2023, and is widely expected to raise its main interest rate on Thursday to 4%, the highest since 2008.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said she did not think shop prices had peaked yet, as retailers were still facing rising energy bills and labour shortages.
Although European natural gas prices have fallen in recent months, they are still several times higher than they were in early 2021 and the government will withdraw most of its energy subsidies for businesses in April.
The BRC collected its price data between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7. Figures released by market research company Kantar on Tuesday , which covered the four weeks to Jan. 22, showed annual grocery price inflation of 16.7%.
Britain’s official consumer price index inflation measure, which covers a wider range of goods and services, dropped to 10.5% in December after hitting a 41-year high of 11.1% in October. Food and drink prices were up 16.8% on the year in December, the most since 1977.
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)