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Consumer Prices Spike Most in 40 Years

Consumers are facing price increases at a faster rate than at any time since the Eighties.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 7 percent for the 12 months through December, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending June 1982. The core index rose 5.5 percent, the largest yearly change since the period ending February 1991. The energy index rose 29.3 percent over the last year and the food index increased 6.3 percent.

Pressured by higher raw material and shipping costs, retail apparel prices increased a seasonally adjusted 1.7 percent in December from the prior month–its largest increase this year.

Women’s apparel prices jumped 2.6 percent, led by a 3.4 percent rise in suits and separates, followed by a 2.2 percent hike in outerwear, a 1.7 percent gain in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, and a 1.4 percent uptick in dresses.

Men’s wear prices rose 1.4 percent in December, pushed up by a 4.2 percent increase in shirts and sweaters, a 1.3 percent rise in pants and shorts, and a 0.2 percent climb in suits, sport coats and outerwear. Bucking the trend was a 2.2 percent downswing in prices for underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories.

Boys’ apparel prices were up 0.7 percent for the month, as girls’ clothing cost 0.1 percent more, while infants’ and toddlers’ apparel prices fell 0.7 percent.

Retail footwear prices increased up 1.5 percent last month, with a 2 percent rise in women’s, a 0.5 percent uptick in boys’ and girls’ outweighing a 0.5 percent falloff in men’s.

An inflationary trend was also seen in home goods. Retail prices for household furnishings and supplies rose 1.3 percent in December, lifted by a 2 percent increase in the cost of furniture and bedding.

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Retailers and their suppliers are feeling price pressures from increased supply chain and labor costs feeding a general inflationary environment. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged $1.11 per pound for the week ended Jan. 6, up from $1.09 per pound the previous week and from 75.34 cents a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For importers, Drewry’s composite World Container Index (WCI) increased 1.1 percent to $9,408.81 per 40-foot container or equivalent unit (FEU) for the same period and was 80 percent higher than the same week in 2021.

The overall CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent in December after rising 0.8 percent in November, BLS reported. Over the last 12 months, the index increased an unadjusted 7 percent.

Increases in the indexes for shelter and for used cars and trucks were the largest contributors to the rise. The energy index, important for business logistics and operations, declined in December, falling 0.4 percent as the indexes for gasoline and natural gas both decreased and ended a long series of increases.

The core index, minus food and energy, rose 0.6 percent in December following a 0.5 percent increase in November. This was the sixth time in the last 9 months it has increased at least 0.5 percent, BLS noted.

Adobe also announced the latest online inflation data from the Adobe Digital Price Index, showing that online prices increased 3.1 percent year-over-year and 0.8 percent month-over-month.

December’s price increases marked the 19th consecutive month of year-over-year online inflation and followed the record high of November, when online prices increased 3.5 percent year to year. In December, apparel and groceries were standout categories, Adobe noted, with apparel prices jumping 16.6 percent for the year and 0.6 percent for the month, rising faster than any other category.

“Inflation online is showing no signs of easing, as durable consumer demand is being met with the same, persistent supply challenges that produced over 6 billion out-of-stock messages online this holiday season,” Patrick Brown, vice president of growth marketing and insights at Adobe, said. “As consumers contend with higher offline prices for everything from gas to rent, they are finding that e-commerce is still a less expensive option when it comes to goods like toys, electronics and even jewelry.”