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Fast Fashion and Promotions Drive Apparel Prices Lower in May

Consumer prices had their biggest month-over-month increase in two years last month, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But apparel and footwear prices continued to slide, depressed by oversupply, the intensely promotional retail environment and the increasing influence of cheap and chic fast fashion retailers.

The overall consumer price index, or CPI, increased by 0.4% in May compared to April, due to higher gas prices, but remained below economist estimates. However, the index was flat on a year-over-year basis. The core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy, rose by 1.7%.

The combined apparel and footwear price index fell by 1.5%, the seventh straight month of decline, and the largest drop in five months. The index for apparel alone dropped by an even steeper 2.3%. Footwear prices increased by 1.8% in the month, less than April’s 2.7% year-over-year increase.

The drop in apparel prices was due primarily to a 3.2% drop in women’s prices. Retailers continue to cite women’s apparel as one of the weaker areas in the market.

Men’s apparel prices declined the least of any segment, down by just 0.5%.

Although the combined infants’ and childrens’ sectors saw prices drop by only 0.4%, both girls’ and boys’ apparel fell by more, and prices for infants and toddlers apparel firmed in the month.