Apparel and footwear prices turned in a slight gain in June for the fourth straight month, resisting the downward pressure exerted on the categories earlier in the year. However, increases continue to remain very small relative to those in other major consumer purchase categories, and tell only part of the story about price pressure in the apparel industry.
Overall inflation increased by a more-than-expected 2.1% in June, according to data just released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, one of the largest year-over-year jumps in the index in the past two years, due to increases in housing, food and gas prices. Food prices had their second largest jump since August 2011.
The index for apparel and footwear, increased by 0.9% in June, slightly more than May’s rise.
Apparel prices (excluding footwear) experienced a 1.4% year-over-year increase, compared to a 1.2% gain in May. Footwear prices dropped by 1.2%, more than May’s 1 percent dip.
Women’s apparel prices surged by 3.8% in the month, while menswear prices fell by 1.7%.
The price index for infants’ and children’s increased for only the fourth time in 16 months, rising 1.1% in May, less than May’s 1.4% gain.
It’s important to understand, however, when looking at these indexes, that inflation is measured through a sampling of published prices, including sale prices, of items in the various categories, and doesn’t take into account the additional discounts of percent-off-entire-purchase coupons, loyalty program discounts, or similar pricing strategies that have become increasingly prevalent in department stores and specialty chains. So, if anything, the official CPI measures actually overstate inflation in industries like apparel in which couponing has been much more aggressive this year than last.