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Retail Apparel Prices Flat in April

Women’s apparel prices fell a seasonably adjusted 0.5 percent last month, while men’s prices declined 1 percent.

Weighed down by declines in women’s and men’s wear, retail apparel prices were flat in April, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday in its Consumer Price Index.

Women’s apparel prices fell a seasonably adjusted 0.5 percent last month, while men’s prices declined 1 percent. This was balanced by price increases of 5.1 percent in girl’s apparel, 2.8 percent in boy’s and 1.2 percent in infants’ and toddlers’ apparel.

In the women’s category, declines were seen in dresses, which saw a 4.1 percent drop, and suits and separates, with a 1 percent decrease. The group that includes underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories posted a price hike of 1.7 percent, with a gain of 0.3 percent notched in outerwear.

In men’s, prices fell in three of the four categories measured in the CPI. Shirts and sweaters dropped 2.8 percent; the grouping of suits, sport coats and outerwear fell 2.2 percent, and furnishings were off 0.4 percent. Pants and shorts bucked the trend with a 1.9 percent increase.

The overall CPI rose 0.3 percent, slightly above the increases posted the previous two months and the fastest growth rate since February 2013, according to Kristin Reynolds, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. The core index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, was up 0.2 percent.

“Overall, the consumer inflation story remains relatively subdued, with the exception of food price increases,” Reynolds said. “Still, everyone needs to eat, and for the short term, that is going to be a more expensive activity, leaving less for other discretionary spending.”

She noted that energy prices, which impact operations for retailers and manufacturers, were mixed in April, with gasoline up 2.3 percent, electricity prices down 2.6 percent and natural gas services gaining 0.3 percent.

“The sharp increase in gasoline prices is unlikely to be a cause for concern since it has declined in seven out of the past eight months prior to April, and is only up 2.4 percent year-over-year,” Reynolds added.