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Red-Hot Inflation Bumps Retail Apparel, Footwear, Home Goods Prices

Inflation climbed yet again, sending prices ever higher during the year’s busiest shopping period.

Over the past 12 months, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased an unadjusted 6.8 percent, the largest 12-month inflation increase since the period ending June 1982, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The overall CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent in November, after rising 0.9 percent in October, it added.

The influence of inflationary pressure was in force last month, as retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 1.3 percent in November compared to October when monthly prices were flat, with increases in every sector, the bureau found.

Men’s apparel prices were up 2.9 percent, with increases of 6.7 percent in suits, sport coats and outerwear; 2.2 percent in shirts and sweaters, and 1.4 percent in pants and shorts. The commodity-based underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group bucked the trend with a 0.1 percent decline.

In women’s wear, prices rose 1.2 percent for the month, as suits and separates increased 2.2 percent and dresses were up 1.6 percent, while outerwear fell 1.5 percent and the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group dipped 1 percent.

Boys’ apparel prices jumped 3 percent, girls’ were up 0.9 percent and infants’ and toddlers’ inched up 0.1 percent.

In home goods, prices for household furnishings and supplies increased 0.7 percent for the month, with the subcategory of furniture and bedding up 0.6 percent.

Footwear prices were up 0.7 percent in November, led by a 1.2 percent rise in women’s and a 0.1 percent gain in men’s that were somewhat countered by a 0.6 percent decline in boys’ and girls’ shoes.

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On top of high demand and strong e-commerce growth, most consumer goods have faced higher freight and raw material costs that have added to prices pressures.

This is evidenced by Drewry’s composite World Container Index (WCI), which increased 2.3 percent to $9,262.02 per 40-foot container or equivalent unit (FEU) for the week ended Dec. 9 and remains 170 percent higher than a year ago.

U.S. spot cotton prices averaged $1.05 per pound for the week ended Dec. 2, down from $113 per pound the prior  week, but up from 67.56 cents a year earlier.

President Biden, commenting on the CPI data, said the numbers “reflect the pressures that economies around the world are facing as we emerge from a global pandemic.”

“But developments in the weeks after these data were collected last month show that price and cost increase are slowing, although not as quickly as we’d like,” Biden said. “Half of the price increases in this report are in cars and energy costs from November. Since then, we have seen significant energy price reductions. Gas prices nationally are down from their peak; prices in 20 states are already below their 20-year average and the price of natural gas is down 25 percent from its November average.”

Even with this progress, “price increases continue to squeeze family budgets.,” the president added. “We are making progress on pandemic related challenges to our supply chain which make it more expensive to get goods on shelves, and I expect more progress on that in the weeks ahead.”

BLS said the monthly rise was the result of broad increases in most component indexes, similar to October. The indexes for gasoline, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles were among the larger contributors. The energy index, important for business operations and logistics, rose 3.5 percent in November as the gasoline index increased 6.1 percent and the other major energy component indexes also rose.

The so-called core index, minus food and energy, was up 0.5 percent in November following a 0.6 percent increase in October. Along with shelter, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles, the indexes for household furnishings and operations, apparel and airline fares were among those that increased.

The core index rose 4.9 percent over the last 12 months, its largest yearly increase since the period ending June 1991, with the energy index up 33.3 percent in the period, the largest 12-month gain in at least 13 years, according to BLS.