Apparel Prices Up Slightly

Wholesale prices on domestically produced women's and girls' cut-and-sewn apparel increased 0.4 percent and overall apparel prices inched up 0.1 percent in March.

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices on domestically produced women’s and girls’ cut-and-sewn apparel increased 0.4 percent and overall apparel prices inched up 0.1 percent in March, compared with a year earlier, according to the Labor Department’s Producer Price Index.

Wholesale prices on all U.S.-made goods advanced a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent last month. But the so-called core rate, which strips away food and energy prices, was up just 0.1 percent, indicating inflation remains in check. The Consumer Price Index, which measures all goods sold at retail and offers another gauge of inflation, comes out today.

“Beyond the energy area and food, too, [inflation] was pretty tame,” said J.P. Morgan Chase economist James Glassman. “It was a milder report than people expected. If inflation’s well behaved, than everything looks pretty good, even if the housing sector is cooling off.”

Energy prices, which were up 1.8 percent in March, are still a concern.

“If you’re a retailer, it’s a mixed bag,” said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s ratings service. “On one hand, consumers seem willing to spend. They seem confident in spending money. But I would start worrying about the potential impact of the higher oil prices.”

In the women’s and girls’ category in March, wholesale prices on domestically made knit shirts and blouses rose 2.5 percent, while tailored jackets and vests were up 1.2 percent and nightwear prices were down 4.9 percent.

In textiles, prices on synthetic fibers advanced 3.6 percent, yarns were up 3.2 percent, thread increased 3.5 percent and greige fabrics rose 4.7 percent.

This story first appeared in the April 19, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.