The little said by bosses reveals a lot on inflation
Sainsbury’s boss Simon Roberts was playing his cards close to his chest today when he was pressed repeatedly about the prospects of food inflation peaking. He was far happier trumpeting the many initiatives that the chain has taken to keep a lid on prices in its stores than talking about the bigger picture for consumers.
It is sometimes deeply frustrating that senior British business leaders seem so reluctant to give their opinion on crucial subjects that they are uniquely positioned to have insights on. But putting that gripe to one side, from what he did reveal it seems that though there are some encouraging signs it may be a few months yet before it is safe to say to tide has turned.
This oil tanker is proving desperately slow to bring to a halt. Meanwhile new figures from the ONS today reveal that shoppers are increasingly using credit cards to pay for staples such as groceries.
That suggests that the financial shields that protected many from the impact of the cost of living squeeze — savings banked during the pandemic, long fixed rate mortgage deals — may be losing their effectiveness.
That said there are few signs yet of an imminent collapse in consumer confidence. But every month that inflation stays above the increase in wages is another month that delays a return to robust economic growth.
Judging by what Sainsbury and Unilever were prepared to tell us today it will be well into the middle of the year at the earliest before the inflation furnace really starts to cool.