UK retailers cut prices again to counter lockdown hit - BRC

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LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers reported another big fall in the prices they charge in early March as the sector grappled with the continued closure of non-essential stores because of COVID lockdown measures, a trade body said on Wednesday.

The British Retail Consortium said its members saw prices fall by an annual 2.4%, matching February's pace of decline for the joint biggest decline since May 2020 when a first lockdown was coming to an end.

Non-food prices fell by 4.0% while food inflation inched up to a still-weaker-than-average 0.3%.

"Low demand and intense competition online will help thrifty consumers find the bargains they are looking for," BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said.

"Prices of fashion and footwear have seen double-digit declines in 11 of the past 12 months, highlighting how those worst hit have been working hard to tempt consumer spending."

But rising global food and oil prices, higher shipping costs and Brexit red tape looked set to push prices up, she said.

Market researcher Kantar said on Tuesday its measure of grocery inflation in the 12 weeks to March 21 was 0.9% with prices rising fastest for canned colas, chilled fruit juices and desserts and falling for bacon, beef and vegetables.

Britain's consumer price index fell to just 0.4% in February but the Bank of England expects it will rise quickly in the coming months to around its 2% target.

The BRC data covered the period between March 1 and March 5.

(Additional reporting by James Davey; Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce)