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Retail Apparel Prices Back Down in September, Led by Men’s Wear

After rising for three straight months, retail apparel prices fell a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent in September, perhaps triggered by early holiday promotions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Tuesday in its Consumer Price Index (CPI) report.

There was a decided gender-leaning outcome to price fluctuations in the month, as men’s and boys’ apparel prices were down 0.7 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, while women’s and girls’ prices rose 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

Within men’s wear, the only category with a price hike was the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, with a 3.1 percent increase, while all other sectors saw declines–3.1 percent in suits, sport coats and outerwear; 1.9 percent in shirts and sweaters, and 1.7 percent in pants and shorts. Boys’ apparel prices fell 4.7 percent last month compared to August.

In women’s, all categories saw prices tick up. There was a 0.6 percent increase in suits and separates, and the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group; a 0.5 percent rise in outerwear and a 0.4 percent gain in dresses. Girls’ retail apparel prices rose 0.1 percent in the month, while infants and toddlers’ clothes cost 3.7 percent less.

Retail footwear prices dipped 0.9 percent in September, led by a 2.1 percent drop in boys’ and girls’ and a 0.9 percent falloff in women’s. Men’s shoe prices bucked the trend, stepping up 0.5 percent in the month.

Raw material prices also could have played a role in finished goods costs. Spot prices of U.S. cotton averaged 61.13 cents per pound for the week ended Oct. That was up from 60.10 cents the prior week and from 58.81 cents a year earlier.

Synthetic fiber prices were down a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent in August from July, according to BLS’s Producer Price Index and were an unadjusted 3.5 percent below August of last year.

The overall CPI increased 0.2 percent in September on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.4 percent in August, BLS reported. Over the past 12 months, CPI increased 1.4 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The energy index, important for business operations and logistics, rose 0.8 percent in September–its fourth consecutive monthly increase–as the index for natural gas increased 4.2 percent.

The core index, minus food and energy sectors, also rose 0.2 percent in September after larger increases in July and August. The core index was up 1.7 percent over the last 12 months, the same increase as the period ending in August.

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