Northern Ireland consumers warned that shop prices are set to rise
The prices of goods in Northern Ireland shops are now "on the cusp of returning to inflationary territory" after years of coming down, it's been claimed.
It comes as a new study suggests the cost of food will rise and retailers are near the end of their ability to shield customers from exchange rate pressures.
Prices across the UK fell just 0.1% in September, their shallowest level of deflation in the last four years, and down from a 0.3% year-on-year decline in August, according to the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index.
"Shop prices in Northern Ireland are on the cusp of returning to inflationary territory, after four years of falling prices", according to Aodhan Connolly, the director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium. He added: "Retailers are working hard to keep prices down, but with exchange rate movements, higher global food commodity prices and mushrooming public policy costs, retailers are now regrettably being forced to pass some of this on to customers."
Deflation on non-food items accelerated to 1.5% in September, from 1.3% in August.
A sharp jump in food price inflation to 2.2% over the year is up from 1.3% in August, with fresh food gaining a full percentage point to 1.8%.
Mr Connolly said: "Consumer demand has often proven a reliable source of growth in the economy, but this will be tested in the period ahead, as our consumers find themselves assailed by rising overall inflation, uncertainty around Brexit, and with statutory rises in employee pension contributions next spring.
"That's why Northern Ireland consumers need an Executive now to design and implement a programme for government that puts them first."
Meanwhile, retailers' efforts to shield shoppers from the impact of higher import prices of basic non-food items were holding out "for now", but consumers were likely to start feeling an additional pinch on these products.