The annual rate of shop price inflation has eased to its lowest level for almost two years, according to an industry reading that credits food and fashion prices.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Nielsen Shop Price Index showed the pace of price increases slowed to 2.5% over the 12 months to February from 2.9% the previous month.

It was the lowest reading since March 2022, the BRC said.

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It was driven by a significant contribution from food, with prices 5% up on a year ago compared with the 6.1% figure registered at the end of January.

The report pointed to price drops for meat, fish and fruit helping fresh food inflation down to 3.4% from an annual rate of 4.9% just four weeks ago.

The BRC credited easing input costs for energy and fertiliser and “fierce” competition for cash-strapped shoppers among retailers.

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A separate report by Kantar Worldpanel, which logs supermarket price and sales data, also pointed to an easing in grocery price inflation but it believed food shoppers would be spared a big acceleration in prices ahead.

Its strategic insight director, Tom Steel, said: “Though there’s been lots of discussion about the impact the Red Sea shipping crisis might have on the cost of goods, supermarkets have been pulling out all the stops to keep prices down and help people manage their budgets.

“This month, Morrison’s became the latest retailer to launch a price match scheme with Aldi and Lidl, after Asda made the move in January.

“More generally, we saw promotions accelerate this month after a post-Christmas slowdown. Consumers’ spending on offers increased by 4% in February, worth £586m more than the same month in 2023.”

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The BRC pointed out rising costs for things like furniture and electrical goods but extended offers on fashion, to entice spending by customers, during February.

It saw risks ahead to slowing price growth from a series of issues including disruption to shipping in the Red Sea to minimum wage and business rates hikes planned for April.

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Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “Easing supply chain pressures have begun to feed through to food prices, but significant uncertainties remain as geopolitical tensions rise.

“Prices of non-food goods will be more susceptible to shipping costs, which have risen due to the re-routing of imports around the Cape of Good Hope.

“Domestically, retailers face a major rise to their business rates bills in April, determined by last September’s sky-high inflation rate.

“April’s rates rise should be based on April’s inflation, and the chancellor should use the… budget to make this correction, supporting business investment and helping to drive down prices for consumers.”

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