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Inflation Spike Reaches 30-Year High, Here’s What It Means for Apparel and Footwear

Inflation is on a hot streak.

The overall Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.9 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 0.4 percent in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Wednesday. Over the past 12 months, CPI rose an unadjusted 6.2 percent, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending November 1990, marking the highest year-over-year surge in more than three decades.

Retail apparel prices were flat in October, potentially the result of pre-holiday promotional pressures balancing out higher supply chain and materials costs, after declining 1.1 percent in September, according to the CPI.

The Conference Board CEO Steve Odland noted that companies have largely been able to get away with having consumers shoulder the cost of rising prices. “In some cases, we’re on wave three of price increases,” he said in a CNBC “Power Lunch” talk on Oct. 26, noting upticks in the cost of raw materials and wages. “Consumers are worried that at some point the price increases are going to get to a point where they start to bend the demand curve.”

Meanwhile, men’s wear was the only apparel sector that saw prices decline, with a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent drop led by a 2.2 percent decrease in shirts and sweaters; a 1.1 percent falloff in suits, sport coats and outerwear, and a 1 percent dip in pants and shorts. The only men’s category to buck the trend was the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group with an increase of 1.3 percent.

Women’s apparel prices rose 1.1 percent in October, with increases of 2.4 percent in suits and separates, 1.3 percent in outerwear and 0.3 percent in dresses. Prices in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group were down 0.7 percent for the month.

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Boys’ apparel prices rose 0.7 percent in October and girls’ fell 1.1 percent, while infants’ and toddlers’ were up 1.1 percent.

The raw material supply chain certainly hasn’t held prices down. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged $1.14 cents per pound for the week ended Nov. 4, the highest weekly average since week ending July 14, 2011, when the average was $1.18.

The synthetic fiber Producer Price Index was up 3.1 percent in September, according to BLS.

Retail footwear prices fell 0.3 percent in the month, with declines of 0.1 percent in men’s, 0.2 percent in women’s and 0.5 percent in boys’ and girls’.

In home goods, BLS reported prices for household furnishings and supplies were up 0.8 percent, with prices for furniture and bedding rising 0.3 percent.

The monthly increase was broad-based, BLS said, with increases in the indexes for energy, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles among the larger contributors. The energy index, important for business operations, 4.8 percent over the month, as the gasoline index increased 6.1 percent and the other major energy component indexes also rose.

The core index, less food and energy, rose 0.6 percent in October after increasing 0.2 percent in September. Most component indexes increased over the month. Along with shelter, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles, the indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, and recreation all increased in October. The indexes for airline fares and for alcoholic beverages were among the few to decline over the month.

The core index rose 4.6 percent over the last 12 months, the largest such increase since the period ending August 1991. The energy index rose 30 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending September 2005, while the food index increased 5.3 percent.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.