The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association has hit back at a report suggesting the price of online pet food had been unfairly hiked during the coronavirus crisis.
The report released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday (April 2) seemed to show that online pet food prices had increased from one week to the next in mid March by 3.1% – an increase larger than the rise for paracetamol of 2.8%.
This led to concerns about price inflation and profiteering, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s warning that he did not want to see firms profiteering and ‘people exploiting people’s need at a critical time’.
Many independent pet retailers were also disgusted by the implied hike, taking to social media to vent their concerns.
Piers Smart, of Scampers in Ely, Cambridgeshire, tweeted: “Time to name and shame every retailer putting up prices of pet food online or in store – every company will be judged in the future on how they behave in the crisis!”
THE RIGHT THING
And Four Seasons Pet Supplies of Castleford, Yorkshire wrote on Facebook: “Hopefully people will see what these onlines are really like and remember when this is all over to do the right thing by using independent pet shops.”
The ONS report ‘Coronavirus, the UK economy and society – faster indicators’ was part of a new suite of economic indicators looking at the impact of the coronavirus on the economy and business.
One of two new indicators was a ‘high demand products’ (HDP) basket, looking at goods that have been in high demand since widespread understanding of a likely shutdown in mid-March.
The HDP basket included everyday essential items currently in high consumer demand, including products such as toilet roll, antibacterial wipes, paracetamol – and pet food.
The online prices for these goods were compared between week one (March 16-22) and week two (March 23- 29). The average increase between the two weeks was 1.1% but pet food showed the second highest increase across the two weeks at 3.1%.
But the PFMA pointed out that the ONS methodology for arriving at its conclusion was a little ‘opaque’, with it being unclear whether the ‘basket’ the ONS had taken its figures from included the likes of Amazon, eBay and third-party sellers. And it pointed out that it was retailers who set prices, not the pet food manufacturers.
Nicole Paley, of the PFMA, said: “The supermarkets have been clear that they have been reducing the number of promotions on offer in store (and therefore online) to try to suppress demand and ease the workload on staff so that they can prioritise store hours to restocking vital categories.”
She added that the PFMA’s own analyst had taken a look at price data and found that the simple act of removing such promotions could account for the increase noted in the ONS report.
She said: “We are not suggesting there is not profiteering in the industry as a whole but we very much doubt that it is taking place in the major retailers, it could be happening via third party online sellers but it is hard to read too much in to this at this point and some further exploration would be needed.”