By  on May 18, 2011

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. posted a midsingle-digit decline in apparel sales and The TJX Cos. Inc. missed Wall Street’s profit mark for the first quarter, but both firms said they’re ready to compete as apparel prices rise.

From the dominant mass player and the top off-pricer, that counts as fair warning to the rest of the apparel world. Both companies have the country blanketed with stores and have spent years burnishing their low-price bona fides for just such a moment — when higher cotton and labor costs across the sector meet shoppers who are contending with lofty unemployment, a weak housing market and high food and fuel prices.

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