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Men’s suits are out of the inflation index basket—but sports bras and pet collars are in

March 14, 2022, 12:42 PM UTC
Updated March 14, 2022, 1:32 PM UTC

It has survived 150 years of changing fashion, seen off the hippies and spared many men the dilemma of deciding what to wear, but the pandemic proved the final nail in the coffin. The men’s suit has officially been retired from the male wardrobe.

That’s the sartorial verdict of the U.K. Office for National Statistics, which has removed the menswear staple from the U.K’s inflation basket, a collection of more than 700 items that are updated annually to ensure it is “representative of the goods and services that consumers typically spend their money on.”

Changes in the prices of those items determine the consumer prices index of inflation that is used by the Bank of England for setting interest rates and by the government to update benefits. 

The suit had been in the basket since the start in 1947. After an increase in home working saw  office attire gather dust in worker’s wardrobes, the suit will now be replaced with a “men’s formal jacket/blazer item.”

Demand for two- and three-piece suits was falling even before the pandemic. Market analysts Kantar estimate that annual sales dropped to about 2 million from more than 5 million during the decade ending in 2020, with shoppers shifting toward “smart separates.” 

The department store Marks & Spencer’s has stopped stocking suits in half its locations. The demise was “hastened by the coronavirus pandemic and home working,” the ONS said. 

Covid’s influence can be seen in many other changes to this year’s basket, too. 

Single doughnuts have been ejected “partially because of the move to home working,” as people buy multipacks instead. The “sports bra/crop top” joins the basket because “the pandemic helped increase our awareness of fitness, with many people working out at home during lockdown.” Pet collars also are in, reflecting the increase in dog and cat ownership during the pandemic, as are antibacterial wipes.

Environmental concerns are also changing spending habits. Canned beans, chickpeas and lentils join the basket for the first time alongside meat-free sausages due to “growth in vegetarianism and veganism, driven by greater health and environmental consciousness,” the ONS said. Coal drops out as domestic sales will be banned from next year.

The changes come at at time when U.K. inflation is already at a 30-year high of 5.5%, with some economists predicting it could hit double digits later this year due to higher energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

With the nation heading into the teeth of a cost of living crisis, the ONS also announced that it will be launching “a personal inflation calculator” so people can work out their own inflation experience based on their particular spending patterns.

The calculator is partially a response to the work by anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe, who has successfully argued that headline inflation “grossly underestimates the real cost of inflation as it happens to people with the least.” The calculator will be available from March 23, when the ONS releases the next tranche of data on price gains.

The ONS also revealed that it is speeding up efforts to use supermarket scanner data “straight from the tills” for the measure from 2024. 

“The announcement is a key part of our long-term transformation of prices collection that is designed to keep the measurement of U.K. inflation as accurate and relevant as possible,” said Sam Becket, head of economic statistics at the ONS.

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