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Retail Apparel Prices Fall Again in April, as Overall CPI Rises on Higher Gas Costs

Retail apparel prices fell for the second straight month in April, dropping 0.8 percent after a 1.9 percent decrease in March, as declines in the men’s and boys’ category outweighed flat levels for the cost of women’s and girls’ clothing, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) report released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Men’s apparel prices were down 1.9 percent for the month from a year earlier, while boys’ declined 4.2 percent. In men’s the suits, sport coats and outerwear category saw priced drop 3.5 percent, while shirts and sweaters fell 3 percent, and the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group dipped 0.1 percent. The only category in men’s that saw prices rise was pants and shorts, with a 0.3 percent uptick.

Women’s wear prices remained flat in April, after falling 2 percent in March from the previous month, while girls’ apparel prices were up 0.1 percent after a 4.6 percent dropoff in March. In women’s, outerwear and dresses each posted price declines of 1.8 percent in the month, while the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group had a 2.1 percent increase, and prices for suits and separates inched up 0.1 percent.

Footwear prices were down 1.6 percent in April month-to-month, with men’s prices declining 1.8 percent, women’s falling 0.4 percent, and boys’ and girls’ dropping 1.5 percent.

The soft retail prices reflect general price declines or stagnation for raw materials further down the supply chain. Fiber and fabric firms have reported an easing of price pressures in recent months, even as some inflation has crept in. Spot prices on U.S. cotton averaged 71.23 cents per pound for the week ending Thursday, May 2. That was down from 72.49 cents per pound the prior week and from 80.22 cents per pound a year earlier.

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BLS reported the overall CPI increased 0.3 percent in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 0.4 percent in March. Over the past 12 months, CPI was up 2 percent.

In areas that impact retail and wholesale operations and logistics, the gasoline index continued to increase, rising 5.7 percent and accounting for more than two-thirds of the seasonally adjusted all items monthly increase, BLS noted. The index for energy rose 2.9 percent, although the index for natural gas declined and the index for electricity was unchanged.

The core CPI index, minus the volatile food and energy sector, was up 0.1 percent for the third consecutive month. The indexes for shelter, medical care, education and new vehicles all rose in April. The indexes for used cars and trucks, apparel, and household furnishings and operations were among those that declined over the month.