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Retail Apparel Prices Jump In January for Largest Hike in 11 Months

Lifted by higher prices on women’s and children’s wear, retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent in January amid clearance sales.

The January increase for apparel was the largest since February 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Wednesday in its Consumer Price Index (CPI). Companies had noted increases in raw material prices, such as for cotton and polyester, in much of 2018, though executives have cited an easing of late.

Women’s apparel prices increased 1.6 percent for the month compared to December. Prices on outerwear jumped 4.2 percent in the month, while suits and separates were up 3 percent and the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group rose 0.6 percent. Bucking the trend in women’s was dresses, with prices down 1.4 percent.

Girls’ apparel prices were up 1.3 percent last month, while boys’ clothing cost 3.1 percent more.

Holding down the overall increase was men’s wear, which saw prices fall 0.7 percent in January. Leading the falloff was a 3.1 percent decline in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group. Prices on suits, sport coats and outerwear rose 1 percent, shirts and sweaters cost 0.6 percent more, and prices on pants and shorts inched up 0.4 percent. Prices were also down on infants’ and toddlers’ apparel, with a 2.1 percent decline for the month.

Footwear prices increased 2.5 percent in January from the previous month. Men’s footwear prices were up 2.8 percent, women’s rose 2 percent and boys’ and girls’ stepped up 4.5 percent.

The overall CPI was unchanged in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, BLS reported. Over the last 12 months, the index increased 1.6 percent before seasonal adjustment. The energy index declined for the third consecutive month, with all the major energy component indexes down in January.

The so-called core index, which excludes the volatile, food and energy sectors, increased 0.2 percent in January for the fourth consecutive month. Driving this up were increases for shelter, apparel, medical care, recreation, and household furnishings and operations, while the indexes for airline fares and motor vehicle insurance declined.

The core index rose 2.2 percent over the last 12 months, the same increase as the 12 months ending November and December 2018.