Prices of toilet roll, soap and tinned tomatoes up during COVID-19 lockdown, figures show.

By Michael McHugh.

The price of toilet roll and liquid soap has increased by more than normal during Northern Ireland's coronavirus lockdown, analysis by Ulster Bank shows.

Tinned tomatoes and cooking sauce in a jar are among the other items seeing the biggest increases, as disruption caused by the pandemic affected the price at tills.

Richard Ramsey, chief economist at the bank in Northern Ireland, said: "Factors including intense demand for some items and the rising cost-base of the grocery supply chain have been influencing the price we pay for some goods.

"The cost of introducing new working practices, acquiring PPE and adapting stores will likely have led retailers to try to recoup at least some of their additional cost burden.

"The intense demand for items like soap as well as things like hand sanitiser will have pushed up global prices, and retailers will have had to pass these on to consumers at least to some extent."

Groceries in the Ulster Bank Lockdown Index include liquid soap, bleach, pasta, rice, baked beans and takeaway pizza.

The price of toilet roll rose 5.2% month-on-month in April, while the cost of liquid soap increased 2.4%.

Canned tomatoes cost an extra 12.4% over the month, and cooking sauce in a jar saw a jump of 9.8%.

Whilst overall consumer price inflation rose 0.8% year-on-year in April, a measure of domestic goods affected by the restrictions increased by 2.4%.

The Lockdown Index increased by 3.2% month-on-month in April alone.

Mr Ramsey added: "Whilst the food and grocery retail sector has seen high demand, it will also have seen increased costs, which potentially squeezes profit.

"We have also had an environment where consumers have been focused on access to goods rather than necessarily their cost.

"Going forward, the focus of consumers will likely switch back to value rather than just access.

"Shopping around for value may force retailers to look more closely at price and we may start to see multi-buy deals and discounts reappear."

The price of petrol (-12.1%) and diesel (-12.8%) are down significantly on the year, influencing the overall figures, but for many the saving is an irrelevance as they are not using their vehicles much at present, Mr Ramsey added.

More than one-sixth of the items that normally make up the consumer price index test basket of goods and services were unavailable to consumers during April, including hairdressing and cinema popcorn.

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