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Brexit-charged inflation bites into Christmas spending

Friday, November 24, 2017

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NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) — Shoppers at Nottingham's Christmas market complain about higher prices and volunteers hand out food parcels just a few streets away, even as retailers seek to dispel Brexit gloom with Black Friday sales.

The price of everything "is shooting through the roof and wages are pretty much staying the same, so every month you cut back on a little bit more," council housing worker Amy Cupit told AFP, as she helped distribute tins in a church, home to one of the city's 15 food banks.

The 33-year-old has taken on a second part-time job to help pay for Christmas, but fears she may one day end up being on the receiving end of the food bank.

Britain is gripped by a cost-of-living crisis sparked in part by the nosedive in the value of the pound after the country voted for Brexit in June 2016, pushing up the price of imported foodstuffs.

With inflation at a five-year high, Brexit has effectively chopped nearly a week's worth of wages off the average family's pay packet, according to research group, The UK in a Changing Europe. The squeeze in purchasing power has made many shoppers cautious in cities such as Nottingham, where official statistics show that people earn around eight per cent less per week than the national average.

British retail sales fell for the first time in four years on an annual basis in October, pulled down by poorly performing food stores, the latest data show. ,p> With wages rising more slowly than prices for the past six months, many shoppers have turned to budget options such as Lidl, a German cut-price retailer currently growing faster than any other supermarket in Britain.

The poorest have been forced to resort to food banks.

Nottingham's network of food banks, Hope, said it has already had to give out 500 more food parcels than last year.

In Nottingham's main square, shoppers mill around the artificial-snow covered stalls.

But with a month to go before Christmas, many think twice before stopping to make impulse purchases.

"I've just noticed generally prices have gone up everywhere in the country," said Anita Tull, a 46-year-old who works in a doctor's surgery and is visiting her daughter at Nottingham University.

"We've had to adjust slightly. We don't buy anything unless we're getting a good deal on it. We look for the sales, the bargains, the three-for-twos," she said.

But Tull, who voted to leave the European Union, said she did not think the Brexitdecision had affected prices.

"Possibly it might in the future, but I just think prices are going to go up generally anyway," she said, echoing the views of many other shoppers in a city where a majority voted in favour of Brexit.

Nationally, just 30 per cent of Leave voters responding to a recent YouGov survey thought the price of their weekly shop would go up once Britain leaves the EU as expected in March 2019. The figure rose to 81 per cent for Remain voters.

The first detailed statistical analysis of Brexit's impact on living standards, published this week by the UK in a Changing Europe, showed that over half of the rise in inflation in the 12 months since the referendum was attributable to the consequences of the vote.

"Our analysis unambiguously shows that the referendum led to a substantial rise in inflation," the study said.

Cupit, a mother-of-two, now avoids driving and has stopped socialising in pubs or cafes, so as to save a bit of money every month towards the cost of Christmas.

"Vegetables haven't gone up so much, but meat and pudding have gone up massively," said Cupit. "On December 25, you're going to be looking at 10, 15, 20 for the meat for all the family, that's a lot of money for something that's going to be there for one day."

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