By  on August 15, 2008

WASHINGTON — Men’s retail apparel prices slid a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent in July, and 0.4 percent from last year, bucking the overall trend for apparel, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

Retail prices for all apparel increased 1.2 in July compared to June and 0.8 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Women’s apparel prices surged 2.1 percent in July compared to June and fell 1.4 percent compared with July of last year.

Within men’s apparel, shirts and sweaters increased 1.1 percent from June and fell 3.7 percent from the same period a year ago. Men’s pants and shorts prices dropped 0.8 percent from the previous month but increased 2.1 percent from July of last year. Men’s suits, sport coats and outerwear declined 0.5 percent in July compared to June and increased 1.7 percent from last year. Retail prices for men’s furnishings dropped 0.6 percent in July from June and fell 0.1 percent from the prior year.

While total apparel prices in July were “soaring” there is no certainty that economic forces are the only thing in play, said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist MBG Information Services.

“This could partly be a sign of higher-priced imports due to the decline in the value of the dollar, but it appears largely a function of changing seasonal adjustment patterns. Apparel prices are up just 0.8 percent in year over year and virtually unchanged since January,” he said.

Some observers saw the price increases as a sign of future stress for the industry.

“Clearly apparel prices are starting to percolate. I think this is just the beginning of a considerable upward trend in prices for apparel, accessories, footwear and related items,” said Richard Yamarone, chief economist, Argus Research Corp.

As manufacturing and shipping costs increase due to rising fuel prices, labor costs and other elements, the prices of apparel items could continue to go up, he said.

The so called “core prices” which exclude the more volatile food and energy sectors increased 0.3 percent in July compared to June and 2.5 percent in comparison to July of last year. Consumer prices on all U.S. items, including food and energy, increased 0.8 percent in July. In June consumer prices surged 1.1 percent, the largest increase in 26 years.

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