Although consumer prices continued to drift upward in August, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation data, apparel and footwear prices suffered another sizable decline, pressured by the intensely promotional retail environment, share gains by fast fashion and off-price retailers, and consumers’ rising value-consciousness.
The overall consumer price index, or CPI, increased by 0.2% in August on a year-over-year basis, its biggest rise in eight months. The index was flat compared to July.
The core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy, rose by 1.8%, due primarily to increases in housing and medical service costs. The combined apparel and footwear price index fell by 0.9%, its tenth straight month of decline.
The index for clothing dropped by 1.5%, its tenth straight monthly drop but smallest decline in four months. Footwear prices increased by 1.1% in the month, their smallest increase in 14 months.
The decline in apparel prices was due primarily to a 2.5% drop in women’s prices. Retailers continue to cite women’s apparel as one of the weaker areas in the market, and the rapid expansion of fast fashion brands like H&M and Forever 21, and of off-price formats like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Saks off Fifth and others is eroding share of traditional retail nameplates. Men’s apparel prices declined by just 1.6%.
Girls’ and boys’ apparel prices fell by 0.1%, while prices for infants and toddlers apparel rose by 5.9%, its biggest monthly jump in more than three years.