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Shoppers, businesses adjust to higher prices

Date Posted: 2008-06-06

Grain prices are up 4.7% compared with two months ago, and meat prices have risen 4.4% in the same period.

Higher oil prices are impacting virtually everything, and touching the lives of consumers and businesses. A market basket survey of 15 common shopping items including seasonings, vegetables, meats and dressings showed 12 have increased since January.

Shoppers are calling it “the third oil shock” and are making changes in lifestyle to adjust. They’re switching from one product brand to another, moving to less expensive cuts of meat, and making decisions to forego some non-essential products. Seasonings prices have risen 2.8%, and bread costs jumped because of the hefty grain price increases.

“It is so easy to raise the menu price,” a restaurant owner lamented, “but we can’t do that to customers.” Customers are foregoing their previously standard fare and selecting lower priced entrees from menus, not eating out as often, and skipping appetizers and desserts. All customer actions, restaurant owners say, are hurting their slim profit margins.

Natural gas prices have risen in the past several months, sending the monthly cost for a typical home from ¥3,500 to more than ¥5,000. Electric costs have jumped from ¥4.000 to more than ¥6,000 monthly, leaving many Okinawans to consider braving the heat instead of the hefty electricity charges stirred by using air conditioning.

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