By  on December 13, 2004

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for U.S.-produced women’s and girls’ apparel fell 0.1 percent in November, although there was an increase in all producer prices linked to rising energy costs.

In the overall economy, producer prices rose 0.5 percent for finished goods, fueled by a 1.8 percent increase in energy prices. However, the core producer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, went up a modest 0.2 percent in November, according to the Labor Department’s Producer Price Index.

Prices for all U.S.-made apparel were flat in November against October and were down 0.2 percent compared with November 2003. Men’s and boys’ prices were also flat last month.

U.S.-made textile and apparel prices have been in a long-term decline because of cheaper imports. The labor department’s recent overhaul of the PPI does not provide year-over-year comparisons, because many of the textile and apparel categories were reclassified.

“It’s the continuation of the lack of pricing power,” said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist of MBG Information Services. “The expectation is that even the relative stability the industry had most of this year will be lost next year.”

McMillion also said that increasing energy prices are compounding the problem for textile and apparel producers.

“Their costs are rising, and they can’t pass that along, and that indicates they continue to be squeezed,” he said. “If they are making any money, this comes straight out of their profits.”

Bras was the only category of women’s and girls’ apparel cut and sewn in the U.S. showing any price changes, falling 0.4 percent in November. All other categories were flat. That includes wholesale prices for knit shirts and blouses, dresses, coats and capes, jeans and slacks, sweaters, swimwear and nightwear.

In another category based on apparel made in knitting mills, wholesale prices for knit shirts dropped 0.1 percent in November, while prices for underwear, nightwear and sweaters remained flat.

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