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Retail Apparel Prices Were Back On the Rise in April

Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in April, after dipping the previous two months, and were an unadjusted 1.9 percent higher than a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Wednesday in its Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Prices were lifted by a 1.3 percent increase in men’s apparel last month. Prices in the men’s pants and shorts category rose 2.3 percent and were up 0.4 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group, while prices fell 0.7 percent for suits, sport coats and outerwear, and 0.5 percent in shirts and sweaters.

Women’s wear prices declined 1 percent in April, led by a 1.7 percent drop in suits and separates and a 0.6 percent fall in outerwear, while prices were up 1.5 percent for dresses and 1.1 percent in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group.

Girls’ apparel prices were flat for the month, as boy’s clothing cost 0.6 percent less and infants’ and toddlers’ apparel prices rose 3.1 percent.

Retail footwear prices were up 0.5 percent for the month. Increases of 4.2 percent for boys’ and girls’ footwear and 1.5 percent in men’s outweighed a 1 percent decline in women’s.

The somewhat erratic pace of prices can be attributed in great part to the pandemic wreaking havoc on consumer demand and in some cases supply of raw materials. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported U.S. spot cotton averaged 84.03 cents per pound for the week ended May 6–down from 84.92 cents the prior week, but up from 50.02 cents a year earlier.

BLS reported last month that the Producer Price Index for synthetic fibers was up 2.2 percent from February and 3.4 percent from March 2020.

The overall CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent in April after rising 0.6 percent in March, BLS reported. Over the last 12 months, CPI rose an unadjusted 4.2 percent–the largest 12-month increase since a 4.9 percent rise for the period ending September 2008.

The energy index, important for business operations, decreased slightly, as a decline in the index for gasoline in April more than offset increases in the indexes for electricity and natural gas.

The so-called core index, minus the volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.9 percent in April, its largest monthly increase since April 1982. Nearly all major component indexes increased in April. The core index rose 3 percent for the year, its largest 12-month increase since January 1996.