Women’s Apparel Prices Rise

Outerwear drives women's increase.

WASHINGTON — Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in October, as stores headed into the crucial holiday shopping season, the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed Thursday.

Women’s apparel prices, boosted by a sharp jump in the outerwear category, increased 1.1 percent last month, while men’s apparel prices lost some pricing power, falling 1 percent last month. Girls’ apparel prices rose 5.7 percent last month, while boy’s apparel prices increased 0.8 percent.

Within the women’s category, outerwear prices rose 9.7 percent in October at what is traditionally the beginning of the key selling season for the category. Retail prices on broad category of underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories were up 1.1 percent, while prices on suits and separates increased 0.4 percent.

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The drop in men’s prices was largely driven by a 3.8 percent price decline in suits, sport coats and outerwear. Prices on furnishings fell 1.1 percent, while prices on pants and shorts declined 0.7 percent.

“The increase in apparel prices is pretty sizable,” said Jeet Dutta, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It is a bit surprising how strong the price gains have been in apparel overall and last month’s gains were concentrated in women’s apparel, while the men’s and boy’s category fell quite sharply.”

Dutta attributed the increase in women’s apparel prices partly to higher petroleum prices that affected man-made fiber categories, and a stronger demand.

The overall CPI, a key gauge of inflation in the U.S. economy, edged up 0.1 percent in October, down from a gain of 0.6 percent in September. Core prices, excluding volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2 percent.

“Overall, consumer prices are expected to remain relatively accommodative for the holiday season,” said Leslie Levesque, senior economist at IHS Global Insight. “Falling gasoline prices should alleviate some of the burden in travel costs, adding to savings from easing prices in other services categories. Rising food prices will be a downer, but can be more manageable in a lower gasoline price environment.”