Byline: JOANNA RAMEY
WASHINGTON — Retail prices for women’s apparel increased a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in June from May while prices for all consumer goods rose 0.3 percent, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Although women’s apparel prices for the month accelerated faster than goods in the overall economy, for the year ended in June inflation in the industry remains low. Retail prices for women’s apparel last month were up 2 percent from June 1993, less than the 2.5 percent increase for all finished goods.
For U.S.-produced women’s apparel, wholesale prices last month fell. On Tuesday, the Labor Department said wholesale prices on women’s apparel in June fell 0.8 percent from May, while prices for all finished goods were unchanged. Wholesale prices for women’s apparel last month fell 0.7 percent from June 1993 while producer prices for all finished goods showed no movement.
Economists said both price reports reflect a healthy, growing economy. The retail price report, in particular, should reduce the Federal Reserve’s fears of inflation and the need to further raise interest rates, they said.
“All in all, it’s not a bad performance from an index that in all likelihood overstates the degree of inflationary pressure on the economy,” said Martin A. Regalia, chief economist with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.
A Labor analyst said women’s apparel prices at retail may appear to have jumped in June, but the increase actually reflects a reduction of the number of sale items that were already deeply discounted when introduced.
For all apparel, retail prices in June increased 0.7 percent against May and were up 1.3 percent from year-ago levels, as prices for girls’ apparel increased 0.9 percent for the month and were up 1.5 percent for the 12 months. Retail prices for men’s apparel increased 0.1 percent in June and declined 0.5 percent over the year.
Among the various categories of women’s apparel, suits experienced the largest monthly retail price increase, rising 2.6 percent for the month, followed by coats and jackets, which increased 1.3 percent, and dresses, up 1.1 percent. Over the 12-month period, retail prices for suits increased 3.6 percent as prices for coats and jackets declined 1 percent and dresses were up 0.1 percent.
Meanwhile, wholesale prices for all domestically produced apparel dropped 0.2 percent for the month and were up 0.2 percent for the year. Producer prices for girls’, children’s and infant apparel declined 0.6 percent in June and were up 1.4 percent over the year, as prices for men’s and boys’ apparel remained unchanged for the month and were up 0.6 percent from year-ago levels.
Women’s apparel categories with large wholesale price swings included sweaters, jackets and jerseys, down 2.1 percent for the month and up 0.6 percent over the year, and dresses, down 3.3 percent in June and down 5.2 percent from June 1993. Wholesale prices for slacks, jeans and dungarees declined 0.1 percent for the month and were down 2.5 percent over the 12-month period.
A Labor analyst said the lack of inflation for U.S.-made textiles has helped keep apparel producers’ costs down as well.
Wholesale prices for domestic textiles increased just under 0.2 percent in June and were up just more than 0.2 percent from year-ago levels.
Low inflation in the textile industry continues to occur despite a steady rise in polyester prices, as well as raw cotton prices, which were up 0.2 percent for the month and up 43 percent from June 1993.
Dave Link, economist with the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, said increased production in the industry due to improved technology and other efficiencies have allowed mills to absorb these additional costs.
“They are in a more competitive position,” Link said, noting how shipments per worker were up 3.6 percent for the first five months of 1994 against the same period in 1993.
Meanwhile, finished fabric prices were down 0.3 percent in June against May and were up 0.6 percent over the year, while gray goods prices were unchanged for the month and declined 2.2 percent from June 1993. Man-made fiber prices were up 0.9 percent for the month and were down 0.3 percent over the year, as prices for processed yarns and threads were up 0.2 percent in June and were down 0.2 percent since June 1993.
— Fairchild News Service