Yesterday the Pimlico, London-based Office of National Statistics reported that last month (May, 2008) retail inflation was running at 3.5 percent for that one month alone. The year-on-year number is 8.1 percent.
This is a staggering leap in retail therapy by a public still reeling from petrol prices at £1.20 a litre, and gas prices predicted to rise by 40% this coming winter. We haven't seen this level of retail inflation in the UK since the dog days of the Callaghan government in 1979. However, as a statistic, it is also completely unbelievable, since despite Gordon Brown's best efforts we aren't living in Zimbabwe yet.
Sir Philip Green, owner of retail chains BHS and Arcadia, said the figures were bizarre, given the economic situation. "These figures in no way reflect the current trend. They are totally misleading. I have no idea where they collect this information from. I'd love to know." (Link)
So how can we account for this ONS brainstorm? Well, I did mention at the top of the post that the ONS is based in Pimlico in Central London. (They have another office in Hampshire but that only concerns itself with the ten-yearly UK census.) But they are not long for London; they are moving lock, stock and barrel, to Newport in Wales.
Now I'm sure Newport is a fine place, but I suspect the ONS is hemorrhaging its skilled staff who don't fancy living and working so far from the bright lights of London town. In short, one must assume that the ONS is now staffed only by its tea ladies who are plucking statistics out of the bottom of their teacups.