Apparel prices recovered slightly in September from August’s deflationary levels, according to data just released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overall unadjusted inflation in the U.S. increased year-over-year by 1.7% in the month, relatively unchanged from the prior month, as lower energy prices almost made up for persistently high food prices.
The index for apparel and footwear rose by 0.5% in September, above August’s flat year-over-year performance.
Most of the increase was due to a rise in footwear prices, however. Apparel prices (excluding footwear) were flat in the month, after declining slightly in August and increasing negligibly in July. Footwear prices rose by 2.3%, their biggest increase in 12 months.
The apparel price increase was driven by a 2 percent increase in infants’ and children’s prices. Women’s apparel prices rose 0.7% in the month, but it was the smallest increase in seven months. The price index for infants’ and children’s increased for the seventh straight month, clocking its biggest gain in five months, primarily due to increases in the prices of infant’s and toddler’s apparel. Men’s prices have been steadily recovering from lower levels earlier in the year, and were virtually flat in September compared to the same month last year.
Government CPI measures are calculated using a sampling of published prices–including sale prices–of items in the various categories, and doesn’t take into account the additional discounts of percent-off-entire-purchase coupons, loyalty program discounts, or similar pricing strategies that have become increasingly prevalent in department stores and specialty chains. So, if anything, the official CPI measures actually overstate inflation in industries like apparel in which couponing has been more aggressive this year than last.