WASHINGTON — Wholesale prices for domestically produced women’s apparel remained unchanged in September, as retailers continued discounting, the Labor Department reported Friday.
For the 12 months, wholesale prices for women’s apparel made in the U.S. fell 0.6 percent.
Wholesale prices for all domestically produced apparel fell slightly, by 0.1 percent in the month and 0.5 percent against a year ago. Producer prices for girls’, children’s and infants’ apparel fell 0.3 percent for the month and were up 0.7 percent over the year.
“The story is still the same,” said Charles McMillion, chief economist at MBG Information Services. “U.S. producers have no pricing power. At this point, they have cut profits as far as they can cut them.”
McMillion said the tax cuts in July and August boosted consumer spending.
“Producer prices would be worse if spending hadn’t gotten the bounce,” he said. “Despite the tax cuts, an uptick in back-to-school sales and continued strong auto and home sales, textile and apparel companies have very little pricing power.”
For all finished goods, producer prices rose 0.3 percent for the month, driven primarily by a 1.2 percent increase in food prices.
Wholesale prices for U.S. textile mills fell 0.2 percent for the month and 0.1 percent against a year ago. Gray fabric prices declined 0.5 percent for the month and 2.1 percent for the year. Finished fabric wholesale prices fell 0.1 percent in September, but edged up 0.2 percent over the year.
Among the women’s apparel categories tracked by the Labor Department with notable wholesale price swings in September were knit outerwear, sport shirts and sweatshirts, which fell 0.6 percent against August and 4.4 percent from September 2002.
Dress prices remained unchanged against August, but fell 1.8 percent over the year, while prices for slacks, jeans and dungarees were flat last month, but fell 2.3 percent against year-ago levels.
Prices for blouses and shirts were also flat last month, but fell 1 percent against September 2002. Bra prices, unchanged for the month, dipped 0.9 percent against a year ago.
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