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Retail Apparel Prices Fall in April

The overall CPI fell 0.4 percent last month, as gas prices dipped.

Retail apparel prices fell for the second straight month in April, dropping 0.3 percent on a seasonably adjusted basis, with declines in women’s, girls’ and boys’, but an uptick in men’s.

The drop-off wasn’t as steep as in March, when retail apparel prices fell 1 percent, the largest downward movement since April 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released its monthly Consumer Price Index report on Thursday. Compared to a year earlier, retail apparel prices in April increased 0.3 percent.

Women’s apparel prices were down 1.3 percent last month and 0.3 percent from April 2012. Within the category, suits and separates notched the biggest declines, falling 2.3 percent for the month and 0.1 percent for the year. Outerwear prices were up 0.8 percent month-to-month and 4 percent year-to-year, while dress prices gained 0.7 percent compared to March, but declined 2.6 percent from a year earlier. The broad area of underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories was flat for the month and fell 0.4 percent for the year.

Girl’s apparel prices declined 0.4 percent for the month and 7.5 percent for the year, while boys’ prices dipped 0.1 percent month-to-month and 3.9 percent year-to-year.

Men’s apparel prices were up 2.1 percent in April from the previous month and advanced 3.3 percent compared to April 2012. Men’s furnishing showed the biggest price hikes, jumping 3.3 for the month and 6.3 percent for the year. Pants and shorts prices were up 2.8 percent in April and 1.3 percent year-to-year, while the suits, sport coats and outerwear group gained 1.3 percent month-to-month and advanced 5.5 percent from April 2012. Shirts and sweaters inched up 0.7 percent last month and gained 1.1 percent from a year earlier.

The overall CPI also fell for the second straight month, declining 0.4 percent in April, led by moderating gasoline prices — down 8.1 percent in April after a 4.4 percent decline in March, but was 1.1 percent higher than 12 months ago. The core CPI, excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, was up 0.1 percent last month and gained 1.7 percent for the year.

“The fluctuation in gasoline prices, which spiked in February but started to decline in March, has impacted spending patterns and consumer confidence,” said Chris G. Christopher Jr., U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. “Discretionary spending is more cautionary and consumer mood starts to sour when pump prices start to rise dramatically. Lower energy prices are helping many households recover from the expiry of the payroll tax cut in January and anemic wage growth.”

Christopher said IHS’s 2013 forecast for core Personal Consumption Expenditure price inflation is standing at 1.2 percent, substantially lower than the Fed’s target of 2 percent.

“However, lower consumer goods inflation and falling pump prices help the average American paycheck go a little further,” he added.