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Retail Apparel Prices Rise Again in February

Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in February compared to the previous month, with increases in men’s, boys’ and girls’ clothing outweighing a decline in women’s, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Tuesday in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

It was the second consecutive month that apparel prices increased–they rose 1.1 percent in January–after being flat in December.

Men’s apparel prices increased 3.2 percent last month, with gains in all segments. Prices of suits, sport coats and outerwear were up 3.3 percent, as were underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories. Shirts and sweaters prices rose 2.6 percent, while pants and shorts cost consumers 0.3 percent more.

Boy’s apparel prices were up 2.4 percent in February, while girls’ clothing cost shoppers 3.4 percent more. Infants’ and toddlers’ clothing prices were up 2.4 percent for the month.

The increases are likely the result of the higher reported costs of raw materials like cotton and polyester, which have made their way up the supply chain. Executives from companies like Hanesbrands and Delta Apparel have reported passing increased raw material prices onto retailers and ultimately consumers.

Bucking the trend was women’s wear, which saw prices fall 1.6 percent last month, likely as a result of competitive promotional pricing as fresh spring goods arrived.

Prices for the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group declined 2.5 percent compared to January, while suits and separates cost shoppers 2.2 percent less and outerwear was down 0.8 percent. Dresses, a hot category and typically a strong spring performer, saw pieces rise 0.2 percent in the month.

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Retail footwear prices ticked up 0.1 percent in February, as women’s merchandise cost 0.9 percent more and boys’ and girl’s shoe prices were up 2 percent. Men’s footwear prices fell 0.9 percent.

The overall CPI increased 0.2 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis after being unchanged in January, according to BLS. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.5 percent.

The indexes for shelter and food increased, and the gasoline index rose after recent declines. The gasoline index rose 1.5 percent in February, following three consecutive monthly declines, resulting in the energy index rising 0.4 percent despite declines in the electricity and natural gas indexes. These indexes tend to impact consumer spending and cost of operations for companies.

The core index, minus the volatile food and energy sector, rose 0.1 percent in February–its smallest monthly increase since August–after rising 0.2 percent in January. Along with apparel, the indexes for shelter, personal care and education all increased. The indexes for recreation, medical care, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles all declined in February.

The core index was up 2.1 percent over the last 12 months, slightly less than the 2.2 percent increase for the period ending January. The energy index declined 5 percent over the last 12 months.