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Consumer Spending on Apparel Slows Again

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Consumer spending on apparel and footwear continued its slow steady slide in May, according to the most current data released by the Department of Commerce, rising by only 1.26% on a 12-month smoothed basis, its smallest monthly increase in more than four years. The rise was much lower than the increase in total goods spending, which rose by and nondurables spending, which gained 3.7%, and nondurables spending, which increased by 3.6%. Growth of apparel and footwear spending has slowed from a peak of 6 percent in March 2012 to where it is today–i.e., barely keeping up with inflation.


Footwear spending fared a bit better than apparel in May, rising 1.7% compared to 1.1% for garments-only. Apparel spending’s increase was its smallest since April 2010. May was the third straight month of decelerating growth for footwear spending.


Women’s apparel spending had the best performance in the month, increasing by 1.4%, ahead of both menswear, on which spending rose a mere 0.9%, and children’s, where spending actually declined for the fourth straight month.


Apparel and footwear spending as a percent of total disposable income, which is sometimes referred to as its “share of wallet,” fell from over 4.3% in 1994 to bottom out at just over 2.7% in June 2009. Since then, it has risen slightly to its current level of around 2.8%. Despite spending $366 billion per year on the combined categories, Americans have been able to dedicate less of their budgets to clothing, due to declining prices and plentiful supply of product, and free up dollars for more inflationary categories like housing, energy and health care.


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