“There’s no way to make money nowadays. I can only manage to repay my loans, pay the rent and feed myself,” Tian said. “Forget about entertainment or any other spending.”
Many have to make even tougher decisions on simple day-to-day spending, sometimes forced to choose between the electricity bill or food. UK grocery chain Tesco Plc says shoppers are buying fewer items and trading down to cheaper own-brand versions of staples.
Just as the pandemic and its recovery proved to be k-shaped, so the next deterioration may prove similarly unequal. In the UK, a report by the Resolution Foundation think-tank said years of income stagnation have left the poorest families “brutally exposed” to the cost-of-living crunch.
Phil Storey’s recent experience as CEO at Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank in London is more evidence of that. With food prices up almost 9%, he’s seen an increase in demand.
“We’re seeing people who were on benefits, but stable financially, people who really know how to budget, now coming to us,” Storey said. “We’re even seeing working people, those on zero-hour contracts, needing help to tide them over.”
At The Buck Inn, Marshall raises a similar concern as she tries to balance protecting her income with not driving away customers.
“The cost of goods is moving so quickly, I have to pass that on,” she said. “But at what point does my pricing become prohibitive? Does going out become so expensive that it is only for the better off?”
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