WASHINGTON — Apparel retailers regained some pricing power in September after losing ground in August, the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed Tuesday.
Women’s apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent for the month and girls’ apparel prices were up 3.6 percent, helping boost overall apparel prices 0.3 percent. However, men’s apparel prices fell 0.6 percent last month and boys’ apparel prices declined 3.1 percent.
Within the women’s category, prices on outerwear jumped 8.2 percent last month, while prices on dresses rose 5.7 percent. Retail prices on suits and separates fell 0.4 percent and prices on underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories declined 0.9 percent.
The drop in men’s apparel prices was largely driven by a 3.7 percent decline in shirts and sweater prices, while prices on furnishings fell 0.2 percent. There were some signs of strength within the category, as prices on sport coats and outerwear rose 2 percent in September and prices on pants and shorts edged up 0.3 percent.
James Bohnaker, associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, said apparel prices, which increased five consecutive months before falling in August and then rebounding in September, should weaken in the coming months as retailers push holiday promotions.
The overall CPI, a key gauge of inflation in the U.S. economy, rose 0.6 percent in September, following the same increase in August. Core prices, excluding volatile food and energy prices, inched up 0.1 percent.
“Consumer prices have been driven mostly by higher pump prices in August and September. Most other prices remain subdued,” said Chris G. Christopher, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight. “Consumer prices have been restrained for the most part if you take gasoline prices out of the picture. Americans should be getting some relief at the pump during the holiday shopping season, since we expect gasoline prices to fall over the next couple of months.”
IHS expects food prices to rise in 2013, due to the summer drought in the Midwest.
“The prognosis is that gasoline will soon leave the role of the villain only to be replaced by food,” Christopher said.