Cards Confirmed As A “Staple Of UK Expenditure” By ONS 

Confirming how firmly entrenched greeting cards are in British society, they are one of the products that has been used to measure current UK consumer price inflation – which will be announced tomorrow (March 20).

Every year the Office of National Statistics (ONS) compiles a “shopping basket” of items (products and services), the costs of which form the basis of measuring inflation.

To make sure the measures are up-to-date and representative of how the public live their lives and spend their money some items are taken out of the baskets and some are brought in.

And the ONS has confirmed that greeting cards and giftwrap are still firm fixtures in the nation’s shopping baskets and as such their respective retail prices will help to define the consumer price inflation of the nation.

In 2019, 16 items have been added to the ONS’ Consumer Prices Index baskets, 10 items have been removed while16 have been modified.

Jumping on the fact that ‘envelopes’ have been removed from the basket, some media coverage intimated that this included greeting cards.  This is most definitely not the case, the envelopes in question that are no longer ‘in the basket’ refer to packs of envelopes.

An article in the Daily Mail, entitled ‘Now envelopes are delivered to history’ began ‘A note of thanks, a birthday card, a handwritten message from a far flung place – envelopes landing on the doormat have often held a certain excitement. But it seems they have now been delivered to the annals of history.’

Above: The Daily Mail suggested wrongly that greeting cards have been dropped from the ONS basket.
Above: The Daily Mail suggested wrongly that greeting cards have been dropped from the ONS basket.

Immediately seeking clarification and to affirm the strength of greeting cards as a consumer product, the GCA’s ceo Amanda Fergusson contacted the ONS.

She wrote “Our public’s spend of over £1.7 billion a year shows the importance of this leading British creative industry… 18-35 year olds are buying more cards than a generation ago, and we are seeing the amount we spend on birthday and general/blank cards (those not linked to a specific occasion) increase as the wider network resulting from social media identifies more opportunities for card sending, to share a joke, image or empathise. Greeting cards remain the preferred choice when it come to expressing a personal message and making the recipient feel loved and special.”

Above: Amanda Fergusson, the GCA’s ceo was quick to clarify the situation with the ONS.
Above: Amanda Fergusson, the GCA’s ceo was quick to clarify the situation with the ONS.

A speedy response from Mike Gibbs
of the 
Retail Prices Index’s team delivered reassurance that there is no cause for concern, with both greeting cards and wrapping paper included in the Books, Newspapers and Stationery ‘basket’.

Above: Peanut butter is now in the basket to improve the ONS’ coverage of oils and fats.
Above: Peanut butter is now in the basket to improve the ONS’ coverage of oils and fats.

He stated “…greeting cards are still very much a staple of UK expenditure…There are no plans to remove these from the basket anytime soon”.
He confirmed that packs of envelopes as a standalone item have been removed as “the expenditure has fallen to below the threshold for inclusion.”

Responding, Amanda wrote: “It is good to know that our lovely British card-sending tradition will rightly continue to be reflected in the ONS basket.”

As to other changes in the ‘basket’, a smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, has been added as have an electric toothbrush, herbal/fruit tea, baseball cap, peanut butter, dog treats, laundry liquid/gel, baking tray and sofa. Among the items off the list is a three piece suite, crockery set, hi-fi, washing powder and brake fitting.

Top: The ONS includes greeting cards in its ‘basket’.

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