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Wholesale Women’s Apparel Prices Tick Up in February

Wholesale prices for domestically manufactured women's and girl's apparel increased 0.2 percent in February from the previous month.

Wholesale prices for domestically manufactured women’s and girl’s apparel increased 0.2 percent in February from the previous month, but fell 0.1 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in its Producer Price Index.

This story first appeared in the March 19, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The department’s Producer Price Index showed that wholesale prices for all apparel, including men’s and boys’, increased 0.1 percent last month compared with January and was up 0.3 percent from February 2007. Prices for all domestically produced goods rose 0.3 percent during the month.

The core PPI, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, increased 0.5 percent in February following a 0.4 percent rise in January. Falling food prices in February helped to counterbalance the effects of higher energy prices. Gasoline and natural gas prices rose and continued to pressure the economy in February, offsetting declines in other energy sectors.

“Producer prices and consumer prices were on opposite tacks in February, with core consumer prices flat and the producer price counterpart accelerating,” Kenneth Beauchemin, U.S. economist for Global Insight, wrote in an analysis. “In such circumstances, the smart money follows the Consumer Price Index with its more robust sample and smaller historical volatility.”

Since U.S.-made apparel and textiles makes up a small percentage of goods sold at retail, the CPI is also a better gauge for those sectors. Women’s retail apparel prices in February fell for the first time in three months, the Labor Department reported last week in the CPI.

Within the PPI, domestic wholesale prices for knit shirts and blouses, and woven shirts and blouses were flat in February, and up 0.3 and 0.1 percent, respectively, compared with last year. Women’s dress prices increased 0.8 percent in monthly and yearly comparisons, and suits and pantsuits were flat versus last month and up 1.5 percent over the prior year. Jeans and slacks were flat on a month-to-month basis, but declined 0.1 percent versus last year.

Prices for textile product mills increased 0.4 percent in February and 1.1 percent versus last year, while prices for goods from textile mills rose 0.4 percent for the month and 3.1 percent f or the year.

Prices on yarns rose 0.7 percent in February and jumped 5.3 percent from last year, while synthetic fibers increased 0.2 percent in February and rose 0.5 percent from the prior year. Greige fabric prices climbed 0.2 percent for the month and 2.8 percent versus last year. Finished fabric prices grew 0.4 percent in February and 2 percent on a yearly comparison.