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Retail Apparel Prices Back Up in June, But Still Below a Year Ago

Retail apparel prices increased 1.1 percent in June, the first gain in four months, led by a jump in men’s, boys’ and girls’ clothing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Thursday in its Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Men’s apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent in June compared to the prior month. Increases of 1.7 percent in shirts and sweaters and 1.5 percent in pants and shorts outweighed decreases of 1.1 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, and 0.7 percent in suits, sport coats and outerwear.

Women’s wear prices fell 0.4 percent in the month. Leading the decline was a 1.4 percent decrease in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, and a 1.1 percent fall off in dresses. Outerwear prices jumped 6.3 percent in June, likely as the first early fall merchandise hit shelves, and suits and separates were up 0.2 percent.

Boys’ apparel prices rose 0.9 percent last month compared to May, while girls’ clothing cost 6.8 percent more. Prices for infants’ and toddlers’ apparel were down 1.1 percent.

Footwear prices stepped up 1.6 percent in June, led by a 2 percent increase in women’s and a 0.6 percent rise in boys’ and girls’ shoes. Bucking the trend was men’s footwear, with prices falling 0.4 percent.

In unadjusted year-to-year comparisons, retail apparel prices were down 1.3 percent last month compared to June 2018, which could be a reflection of the softness of raw material prices as they make their way through the supply chain.

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Cotton prices have been at cyclical lows, falling more than 25 percent in the last year. Spot prices on U.S. cotton averaged 60.50 cents per pound for the week ended July 4 compared to 80.42 cents per pound a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

On Wednesday, USDA reported spot cotton prices had bounced back a bit to 57.83 cents per pound after closing at 57.32 the previous day. The BLS Producer Price Index for domestic synthetic fibers was flat in May, but was up 2.5 percent from a year earlier.

The CPI for all consumer goods increased 0.1 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, following the same gain in May, according to BLS. Over the last 12 months, the CPI was up a non-adjusted 1.6 percent.

Increases in the indexes for apparel, shelter and used cars and trucks more than offset declines in energy indexes to result in June uptick. The energy index, a key indicator for business operations, fell 2.3 percent.

The so-called core CPI, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.3 in June, its largest monthly increase since January 2018. The core CPI rose 2.1 percent over the last 12 months.