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Inflation Inequality: 4 Brands Raised Prices 27%-32% in Just 6 Months

January findings from Dataweave show substantial annual price increases for apparel and footwear products for a numbers-driven look at inflation in the sector.

The retail data analytics firm uncovered higher MSRPs in both clothing and shoes, with certain categories’ price increases outpacing others over the past 12 months. “To analyze the data, we examined both external sources and our own internal data banks to explain the difference in price increases,” Dataweave president and COO Krish Thyagarajan told Sourcing Journal.

Dataweave looked to pricing on pants, shirts, tops, underwear, fleece and other categories from 36 retailers including Amazon, Bloomingdales, Dillard’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, The North Face, Nordstrom, Target and Walmart, as well as shoe silhouettes from 38 retailers including Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nike, Rockport, Vans, and Zappos. The company’s data set featured price increases that varied by 30 percentage points across different SKUs and brands.

According to DataWeave, skirts faced the highest year-over-year inflationary pressure among apparel styles, with 378 options analyzed to reveal an average price change of over 30 percent between January 2021 and January 2022. Pants styles came in at No. 2, with 4,454 SKUs assessed to show an average price differential of more than 8 percent. Notably, the shirt subcategory showed no price increase across 2,802 styles, while 3,131 short styles showed just a 0.41 percent increase in average pricing. Fleece styles increased by a little over 1 percent, while underwear, assessed across 7,391 styles, saw a more than 2 percent elevation in pricing. Tops saw more substantial price increases, with an average of more than 6 percent across 12,189 styles.

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Footwear styles saw price hikes across the board, with the total category seeing average increases of more than 5 percent. Sandals saw the greatest year-over-year change; 9,827 analyzed styles revealed average price hikes of 12 percent. Boots remained below the category average, with more than 4 percent average price growth, while socks also increased in price by about 4 percent.

“While we examined the possibility of price inflation at the raw material level, both our own data and external sources suggested this wasn’t the case,” Thyagarajan said. Inflation in the fashion sector “seems to be more market based, driven by brands and retailers,” he added, noting that premium or luxury labels have disproportionately increased their MSRPs in recent months.

Between June 2021 and January 2022, Eileen Fisher raised its prices by an average of 32 percent, while Michael Kors (28 percent), Calvin Klein (24 percent) and Columbia Sportswear (27 percent) all saw “unusually steep price changes,” Thyagarajan said. “We don’t believe that raw material prices registered such a drastic change for luxury versus non-luxury apparel, so I believe this is a branding trend, and specifically luxury branding.”

Some of the variability in price shifts between apparel subcategories can be attributed to seasonality, Thyagarajan said. Trans-seasonal “staples” like shirts and fleeces don’t see much change from a design or demand perspective from year to year, and retailers may be able to re-sell stock from previous seasons. Pricing trends diverge, however, in “seasonal subcategories—such as skirts and sandals,” he added, which are “usually more fashion-forward, and as such are more recent procurements.” On an item level, skirts generally tend to be pricier than other apparel subcategories, DataWeave found.

Shipping costs also jumped in recent months to record levels in the back half of 2021. Despite announcing its highest recorded quarterly earnings in November, footwear firm Caleres noted that the skyrocketing ocean freight costs would drive 15 percent price increases this year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a 1.1 percent increase in apparel pricing in January from the month prior—an unadjusted 5.3 percent increase from the same period a year prior. In early February, Drewry’s composite World Container Index (WCI) recorded average prices of $9,359.10 per 40-foot container or equivalent unit (FEU)—80 percent higher than the year-ago period.