Squeezed Northern Ireland households have seen a significant drop in prices during the pandemic, retailers said.
They were down by almost 2.5% while non-food specifically was reduced by 4.6% UK-wide, May’s Shop Price Index said.
Non-essential stores have been closed since March but supermarkets have continued to trade.
Retail can be a pillar of the economy bouncing back but to do this we need to be able to openAodhan Connolly
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “Overall prices being down by almost 2.5% and non-food prices being down by 4.6% is a boon for Northern Ireland households who have seen their budgets squeezed over recent months with the economic uncertainty.
“Retailers have worked very hard to keep prices affordable even though, for those who have been open, there has been a significant increase in costs to implement social distancing measures and to hire staff both to back fill jobs for colleagues who are shielding and for the growth of labour intensive modes of shopping such as delivery and click and collect.”
He said shops which have been open have led the way in providing a safe environment for shoppers and staff but many other sectors of the retail industry have invested time and money to be ready to open safely and in accordance with guidelines produced with shopworkers’ union Usdaw.
“However, the longer that those shops remain closed the harder it will be for them reopen.
“Retail can be a pillar of the economy bouncing back but to do this we need to be able to open.”
Across the UK, shop prices fell at their fastest since 2006 in May, the British Retail Consortium said.
Shop prices fell by 2.4% last month compared to a 1.7% decrease in April.
Non-food prices fell sharply by 4.6% in May compared to a decline of 3.7% in April.
Food inflation eased to 1.5% in May, down from 1.8% in April.
This is in line with the 12- and six-month average price increases of 1.5% and 1.5%, respectively.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Clothing and furniture saw the biggest drop as retailers ran promotions to encourage consumer spending and attempted to mitigate recent losses.
“Year-on-year food prices increased slightly due to higher business costs, implementing social distancing measures and the upward pressure from labour shortages, but were down on the previous month as more home-grown produce became available.
“We expect to see continued upward pressure on food prices from the effects of the pandemic in the coming months, while non-food prices are likely to remain deflationary with subdued sales.”