Tim Pike, Juliette Healey and Carleton Webb
Price inflation for food and drink rose sharply between July 2016 and July 2017, going from minus 2.6% to +2.6%. But could those increases have been even steeper? In this post we examine the evolution of the UK supermarkets sector. Monitoring their pricing behaviour can be important for understanding short-run inflationary developments given the supermarkets’ high share of imported goods, the general volatility of food prices, and the fact that the largest four supermarkets account for over a quarter of UK retail sales. We find that intense competition in the sector has slowed pass-through of higher import prices following sterling’s recent depreciation. We think that competitive pressures will bear down on food price inflation for the foreseeable future, despite pressure on supermarkets’ margins.