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What is skimpflation? Richard Godwin

Regulars | By Richard Godwin

Lean cuisine: skimpy choc bar

Skimpflation is an amalgamation of ‘skimp’ (economise or cut corners) and the economic phenomenon of ‘inflation’, which means prices rising over time. By Richard Godwin

Many of us will have experienced it already in 2022. You spend your hard-earned on something you’ve always enjoyed – say, lunch in your favourite café. Only, the café is understaffed. The food is served with an air of ‘Will this do?’ The meal is roughly 11 per cent less enjoyable than you remember it being.

You can’t entirely blame the café-owner. The war in Ukraine, the coronavirus pandemic and a geopolitical turn against globalisation are pushing up prices in a way that Britain hasn’t seen since the 1970s. Gas bills are up 53.5 per cent, electricity bills 95.5 per cent, petrol has hit an all-time high and food bills are rising fast. The British workforce has shrunk by 2 per cent since 2020. Brexit + COVID = a mass exodus of the people who formerly kept cafés humming, hospitals clean and goods hauled. So there is pressure on wages, too. The Bank of England expects the overall inflation rate to reach 11 per cent by the end of the year.

This means businesses have two choices. One is to raise prices and risk losing customers. Another is to offer a skimpier product and hope no one notices. Many are opting for the latter option. One sign of the times: the Harvester salad bar is no longer all-you-can-eat.

Skimpflation has a cousin in shrinkflation, which is when a product diminishes in size while remaining the same price. The Cadbury’s Dairy Milk sharing bar has shrunk from 200g to 180g in the last year. A Channel 4 investigation in 2017 found that Sainsbury’s had raised the retail price of a packet of Taste the Difference chipolatas by 14 per cent (from £2.63 to £3), disguising an actual 42-per-cent price rise by reducing the number of chipolatas per packet from 20 to 16.

Once you start to notice skimpflation and shrinkflation, you see they’re everywhere. Did your holiday involve more sleeping on the concourse at Luton Airport than you’d have liked? Did your garden furniture take seven months to arrive? We might broaden the terms to describe the Government’s general approach to care homes, hospitals, the passport office, the railways etc. The UK Customer Satisfaction Index shows complaints at a record high, with quality, reliability and availability the most common gripes.

So the overall experience of being a British person is 11 per cent worse than it was last year. Still – lovely weather

This story was from September 2022 issue. Subscribe Now