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Retail Apparel Prices Rise in September After a Three-Month Decline

Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9% in September compared to August after declining the previous three months, according to the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Men’s apparel prices were up 2.2% in the month, while women’s clothing prices increased 1.6%. Executives have been predicting a rise in apparel prices, brought on by higher raw material costs—U.S. spot cotton prices were 74.96 cents a pound last week, compared to 66.69 cents a pound a year earlier—as well as tariffs on a range of goods imposed by the Trump administration and China. Even though apparel merchandise hasn’t specifically been targeted yet, some inputs have been, and the threat that they will has caused manufacturers to shift sourcing plans, potentially resulting in added costs.

In men’s wear, prices for pants and shorts were up 2.9% last month, shirts and sweaters saw a 2.6% hike, and suits, sports coats and outerwear gained 0.6%, while furnishings prices remained flat. In women’s wear, outerwear prices jumped 9.8%, suits and separates increased 2.4%, and dresses rose 0.7%. The underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories group went against trend, falling 2 percent.

Boys’ apparel prices increased 4.8% and girls’ clothing prices were up 0.7% in the month. Infants’ and toddlers’ apparel prices rose 1.8%.

Among footwear, retail prices fell 1.4% in September, with men’s footwear dropping 0.3%, women’s falling 0.9% and boys’ and girls’ declining 1.9%.

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The overall CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in September after rising 0.2% in August. Over the past 12 months, the CPI rose a non-adjusted 2.3%.

The BLS noted the shelter index accounted for more than half of the monthly increase, while the energy index declined 0.5% in September after rising in August, as gasoline prices eased off. The core index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, also rose 0.1% last month and 2.3% from a year earlier.

Ken Matheny, executive director of U.S. economics at Macroeconomic Advisers by IHS Markit, said, “Although September’s increase in core CPI was smaller than expected, the 12-month measure indicates that consumer price inflation is close to the Fed’s objective.”

Matheny said based on the new report, IHS’s estimate of the 12-month change in the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index—a key barometer for retail spending—for September was now 1.9%, down 0.1% from August. He added, “We made no revision to our estimates for third-quarter and fourth-quarter real PCE growth, which left our third quarter GDP tracking at 3.7% and fourth quarter GDP tracking at 2.6%.”