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September Retail Apparel Prices Fell 1.1%, as Home Goods Rose

Retail apparel prices fell a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent in September after rising 0.4 percent the prior month, with promotional pricing apparently winning out over high raw materials and shipping costs.

The lower clothing prices were also counter to the 0.4 percent increase in the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI) reported Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for September.

Price declines were seen across the board in apparel. Women’s apparel prices declined 2.6 percent for the month, led by a 3.7 percent decline in suits and separates, along with dips of 1.3 percent in dresses and the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group. Outerwear was the only sector to see an increase, rising 1.8 percent.

Men’s wear prices were down 1.1 percent in September, with declines of 2.4 percent in suits, sport coats and outerwear, and 1.7 percent in pants and shorts. Balancing that were increases of 1 percent in shirts and sweaters, and 0.6 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group.

Boys’ apparel prices fell 1.7 percent for the month and girls’ were down 3 percent, while infants’ and toddlers’ clothing prices rose 0.8 percent. Retail footwear prices were up 0.5 percent, as men’s prices rose 1.7 percent, and boys’ and girls’ jumped 3.3 percent, while women’s stepped down 1.1 percent.

BLS reported prices for home furnishings and supplies increased 1.3 percent in September compared to August, with furniture and bedding prices up 2.4 percent.

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The soft goods prices are under particular pressure from significant increases in raw material and shipping costs. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged $1.05 cents per pound for the week ended Oct. 7, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA). This was the highest weekly average since the week ended Sept. 15, 2011, when the average was $108.18, DOA noted. The weekly average was up from 97.22 cents the prior week and from 61.13 cents a year earlier.

In the same time period, Drewry’s composite World Container Index (WCI) inched down 2.2 percent to $10,129.72 per 40-foot container or equivalent unit (FEU), but remained 289 percent higher than a year earlier. The average composite index of the WCI, assessed by Drewry for the year-to-date, is $7,056 per FEU, which is $4,593 higher than the five-year average of $2,464 per FEU.

In September, the indexes for food and shelter rose, contributing more than half of the monthly increase. The energy index, important for business operations, was up 1.3 percent, with the gasoline index up 1.2 percent after increasing 2.8 percent in August. The electricity index increased 0.8 percent in September following a 1 percent rise the prior month. The index for natural gas also increased in September, rising 2.7 percent–its eighth consecutive monthly increase.

The core index, minus food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in September, after increasing 0.1 percent in August. Along with the index for shelter, the indexes for new vehicles, household furnishings and operations, and motor vehicle insurance also increased in September. The indexes for airline fares, apparel, and used cars and trucks all declined over the month.

BLS reported that over the past 12 months, the CPI increased an unadjusted 5.4 percent. The core index rose 4 percent in the same period, with the energy index rising 24.8 percent.