Jaffa cakes

The challenge posed by online retailers to brick and mortar shops is a major topic in any discussion on the decline of British high street. So, when you realise that the percentage of all retail shopping that is still in-store rather than online is a sound 82 percent, it is definitely something to celebrate.

That’s what the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) did when it chose this piece of data among the winners of its annual Statistics of the Year for 2018. The data from the Office of National Statistics is included in the category of ‘highly commended’ statistics for the UK.

“With many well-known retailers hitting hard times, or even entering administration, this statistic came as a surprise. It shows that the vast majority of shopping is still done in-store, despite the well-publicised growth in online sales,” said Prof. Diane Coyle, an economist and member of the judging panel.

Jaffa cakes is another winner in the same category, but the statistic may not be that promising. The percentage reduction in the number of Jaffa cakes in McVities’ Christmas tube, at 16.7 percent, is chosen as an illustration of the concept of ‘shrinkflation’, when manufacturers shrink the size of their products but not the prices they charge.

The McVities Jaffa cakes festive tube, often known as ‘A Yard of Jaffa’, now consists of 40 cakes rather than 48. Interestingly, McVities has now started to bill its product as a ‘cracker’ rather than a ‘yard’ of Jaffa cakes.

With the push against plastic waste gaining momentum this year, RSS chose a pertinent statistic as the top winner: the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled – 90.5 percent.

Around 30 percent of the plastic ever produced, worldwide, is still in use. Out of the remaining amount, estimated at 6,300 million metric tonnes, it has been calculated that only 9.5 percent has been recycled.

This 90.5 percent figure includes approximately 12 percent of plastic waste which has been incinerated. The remaining 79 percent has been allowed to accumulate in landfills or in the natural environment.

“It’s very concerning that such a large proportion of plastic waste has never been recycled’, said RSS President Sir David Spiegelhalter who chaired the judging panel. “This statistic helps to show the scale of the challenge we all face. It has rightly been named the RSS’s ‘International Statistic of the Year’ for 2018.”

The winner of the UK Statistic of 2018 is 28.7%: the peak percentage of all electricity produced in the UK due to solar power on 30 June this year. This surprising figure reflects that fact that solar power was, while only briefly, the country’s number one electricity source – ahead of gas.

The UK ‘highly commended’ statistics for 2018, besides the in-store sales surprise and Jaffa shrinking, are the percentage of female executive directors within FTSE 250 companies, 6.4 percent, and the proportion of British trains that ran on time, 85.9 percent, the lowest for more than a decade.

A number of surprising statistics were also selected as ‘highly commended’ under the International category. These include:

  • 9.5: the percentage point reduction in worldwide ‘absolute poverty’ over the last ten years – meaning that the proportion of those living in this condition has more than halved since 2008.
  • 64,946: the number of measles cases in Europe from November 2017 to October 2018.
  • 40%: the percentage of Russian males who do not live to age 65 – the proposed state pension age for men.
  • $1.3 billion: the amount wiped off Snapchat’s value within a day of one Kylie Jenner tweet.