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Information Note on Implications of COVID-19 on the Consumer Price Index - February 2022

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Methods of CPI/HICP price collection

There are two basic price collection methods: local and centralised.

Local collection is used for 478 of the 615 item headings; pre pandemic prices were collected by approximately 80 price collectors in retail outlets in 84 locations around the country. Approximately 48,000 quotations were obtained by this method. These item headings account for 49.2% of the total weight of the CPI basket.

Centralised collection is used for 137 of the 615 item headings; prices are collected centrally by the CSO with minimal field work. In practice, this involves the use of postal, e-mail and telephone enquiries along with internet price collection. Approximately 3,000 quotations are obtained by this method. These item headings account for 50.8% of the total weight of the CPI basket

Impact of pandemic on CPI data collection

The CSO sustained the following contingency measures to collect CPI price data for throughout the pandemic which were initially implemented in April 2020:

  1. Price information was collected from websites and the CSO engaged with large retailers that provided price data to replace the price information which was previously collected in-store by the price collectors. The CSO maximised the price collection from these alternative sources to the greatest extent possible and ensured that the information used for the CPI was comparable between each month.
  2. The CSO engaged with companies and sole traders that normally provide price information in specific sectoral surveys i.e. mainly in services. The CSO appreciates the continued support and assistance of these businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Price change was imputed for items in the basket where consumption had not recommenced, or it was not possible to collect reliable price information.

Redesign of local price collection

Maximising the benefits of the contingency measures used throughout the last 22 months to calculate the CPI, a hybrid collection method which utilises multiple sources is being implemented.

This will include the use of price collectors in the field, online pricing, webscraping methods and receiving price files directly from retailers. Utilising these multiple sources will lead to the reduction of operational risk by providing a secure supply of price information and will improve the quality and accuracy of inflation statistics.

Return of price collectors   

CPI Price collectors returned to in store pricing in January 2022. This return comprised of 30 price collectors entering multiple retail outlets in 30 locations around the country and they collected approximately 12,000 prices. This has allowed for comparison in February 2022 and for prices collected in stores to be included in the calculations of the CPI for the first time since March 2020. This method allows for price collection in localised stores and stores that have a minimal or no online presence which was not possible throughout the pandemic.

 

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