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Drop in Apparel Prices Helped Calm October Inflation

Declining prices of oil and other commodities drove down the consumer price index in October, according to data just released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Growth in the index for all items fell to less than 1% year-on-year. Taking food and energy out of the mix, the core rate of inflation was 1.7%, its smallest increase in three months.

Falling apparel prices helped temper the overall price rise as well. The index for apparel and footwear dipped .2%, its first decline in two and a half years. Apparel merchants, challenged by the increasingly difficult retail environment, have managed to successfully reduce manufacturing costs and pass at least some of the savings on to consumers.

Apparel prices dipped .4% compared to October 2012.

Womenswear prices were flat in the month, compared to September’s 1.4% increase.

Menswear prices remained stronger, rising 1.7%, helped by strong demand by younger fashion-conscious men and the slowly improving job market.

Prices for infants’ and children’s apparel plunged by an average of 5.5%, with girl’s apparel prices sliding the most, at 7%. Consumers tend to seek value when purchasing clothing for children, who tend to outgrow their apparel in a short time. A glut of girls’ clothing at department, discount and specialty stores makes this an extremely competitive marketplace right now.

Footwear prices edged up by .5%. Footwear prices have been firmer than those of clothing for over a year now, though they’ve been softening for the past several months. Children’s footwear prices rose by 2% year-on-year in October, while those of men’s and women’s were flat.