Non-food inflation slowed marginally to 1.5% in March from 1.6% in February, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC does not split out figures for clothing, but said much of the inflation that there was had been driven by rising utility bills rather than retailers, which had sacrificed margin to keep prices down and drive sales
Overall shop price inflation slowed to 2.4% from 2.7%, according to the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index, and non-food inflation was much more stable than food inflation, which fell 4.0% in March from 4.5% in February.
British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: “On the day that National Insurance contributions rise, taking another chunk out of many people’s disposable incomes, there is some good news here.
“Global commodities are still exerting considerable upward pressure on retailers’ costs, but…the consistently low rate of inflation for non-food goods shows retailers are still absorbing much of the VAT rise themselves.
“Overall shop price inflation is well below the wider Consumer Price Index, which is running at 4.4 per cent. The rise in overall inflation is not coming from the high street but is being driven by rising fuel prices and escalating utility bills.”
Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s senior manager, retailer services, added: “After almost a year of commodity and other inflationary costs progressively pushing up shop prices, it’s good to see the pace of retail price increases slow a little. However it’s too soon to say that the worst is behind us as retail sales have weakened across both food and non-food in recent weeks as shoppers react to falling disposable income.
“Retailers have had to respond with even more offers and discounts as the cost of living remains one of the top concerns of shoppers.”