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Domestic Wholesale Apparel Prices Rise in March

While wholesale prices for U.S.-made apparel increased, deflation remains a primary risk.

WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for U.S.-made apparel increased 0.2 percent in March compared with February, and advanced 1.8 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

This story first appeared in the April 15, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Women’s and girls’ domestic apparel prices declined 0.1 percent, but were up 2.1 percent in year-over-year comparisons, according to the Producer Price Index. Prices for men’s and boys’ apparel increased 0.2 percent in March and 2.2 percent in the 12 months.

Prices for all goods manufactured in the U.S. decreased a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent in March. The decline followed increases of 0.1 percent and 0.8 percent in February and January, respectively.

“Although fears of deflation have eased as global commodity prices have stabilized, [Tuesday’s] PPI report emphasizes that deflation rather than inflation remains the primary risk for now,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

However, the PPI for apparel is not considered a true indicator, since a vast majority of clothing sold at retail is imported.

Input costs and finished goods prices were soft in March because weak demand has lessened pricing power, Gault said.

Wholesale prices in March for women’s and girls’ apparel remained flat for all categories from the previous month. Prices for woven shirts and blouses were up 3.1 percent and dress prices increased 2.2 percent in year-to-year comparisons. Knit shirts and blouses increased 1.4 percent in the same period. Wholesale prices for tailored jackets and vests, and jeans and slacks gained 0.8 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, compared with the previous year.

Men’s work clothing prices, excluding work shirts, increased 0.9 percent in March and 2.8 percent year-over-year. Prices for suits declined 0.7 percent in March but increased 3.6 percent from the previous year. Wholesale prices for woven shirts were flat compared with the previous month, but increased 4.4 percent year-to-year.

Prices for textile mill goods, primarily apparel fabric, declined 0.3 percent in March, but increased 2.1 percent from a year earlier. Textile product mills prices, mainly home furnishing and industrial fabrics, increased 0.3 percent month-to-month and 3.2 percent year-over-year.

Deeper in the pipeline, prices for synthetic fibers declined 3.7 percent in March and fell 4.5 percent in 12-month comparisons. Yarn prices dropped 1.3 percent month-to-month and decreased 2.8 percent year-over-year. Greige fabric declined 0.6 percent in March, but increased 4.7 percent from a year earlier. Finished fabrics declined 0.4 percent in March, but were up 3 percent year-to-year.