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Course Correction: Retail Apparel Prices Back Up in June

As stores at least partially reopened their doors around the country, U.S. retail apparel prices increased a seasonally adjusted 1.7 percent in June after two months of steep declines, but were still down an unadjusted 7.3 percent from a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Tuesday in its Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The price increase was seen in all main apparel categories, adjusting back from a record 4.7 percent decline in April and a 2.3 percent drop in May amid the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on consumer spending and demand.

Men’s apparel prices increased 1.5 percent in June, led by a 4.7 percent rise in suits, sport coats and outerwear. Prices for underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories rose 1.4 percent, as shirts and sweaters cost 0.7 percent less in the month. Bucking the trend were pants and shorts, which saw prices decline 0.7 percent, according to BLS.

Women’s apparel prices were up 0.8 percent last month, with gains of 2.2 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group; 0.8 percent in suits and separates, and 0.4 percent in outerwear. Prices for dresses were down 0.5 percent.

Boys’ clothing prices jumped 3.6 percent in the month, girl’s apparel cost 1.7 percent more and prices on infants’ and toddlers’ apparel were up 6.5 percent.

At least one major apparel component showed a similar pattern. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged 59.91 cents per pound for the week ended July 9. That was up from 57.56 cents per pound the prior week and from 58.45 cents a year earlier.

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Footwear prices increased 1.4 percent in June, with hikes of 1.7 percent in girls’ and boys’, and 1.2 percent in men’s, while women’s prices were flat.

The overall CPI increased 0.6 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, after falling 0.1 percent in May, BLS reported. Over the past 12 months, the index was up an unadjusted 0.6 percent.

The core index, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.2 percent in June, its first monthly increase since February. The index for motor vehicle insurance increased sharply in the month after recent declines. In addition to apparel, the indexes for shelter and medical care also increased in June, while the indexes for used cars and trucks, recreation and communication all declined.

The energy index, important for business operations and logistics, rose 5.1 percent in June after falling in each of the previous five months. The increase was a result of the gasoline index, BLS said, which rose 12.3 percent in June after falling the previous five months. Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 10 percent in June. The electricity index, in contrast, declined 0.3 percent last month, while the index for natural gas was unchanged.