WASHINGTON — Retail apparel prices fell in November, driven by across-the-board declines in women’s and men’s categories, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index, released on Wednesday.
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Women’s apparel prices fell a seasonally adjusted 1.7 percent in November, while men’s apparel prices declined .1 percent. Boys’ and girls’ apparel prices fell 1.5 and 3.4 percent, respectively.
“Without wage growth, there is really not a lot of demand for acceleration in apparel prices,” said James Bohnaker, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. “In addition, producers are benefiting from lower oil and production prices, and there is not a lot of impetus to raise prices when demand isn’t really signaling they have room to do so.”
Bohnaker noted that he expects apparel prices to remain weak next year.
“Certainly, there is room for growth down the road, but I think retailers would like to see more demand before increasing prices,” he added.
In the women’s category, outerwear prices fell 3.7 percent in November, while suits and separates prices fell 2.4 percent. Prices in the combined underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories category fell 1.9 percent. Women’s dress prices rose .4 percent.
In men’s wear, prices in the combined suits, sport coats and outerwear category fell 1.2 percent, while prices for shirts and sweaters fell .8 percent. Men’s wear prices for furnishings fell .5 percent, while prices for pants and shorts rose 1.7 percent.
The overall CPI fell a seasonally adjusted .3 percent last month, after falling .2 percent in October. Core retail prices, excluding volatile food and energy prices, edged up .1 percent in November.
“Retailers were discounting deeply and hard this November,” said Chris J. Christopher Jr., U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. Consumer goods prices, excluding food and energy, fell a whopping .4 percent. In addition, many retailers are passing on their reduced transportation costs to consumers, he observed.
Christopher also noted that consumers are benefiting from a “dramatic drop” in gas prices, which fell 6.6 percent in November, marking the biggest decline since December 2008.
“The plunge in prices at the pump is offering relief to lower- and middle-income households and mitigating the elevated level of food prices,” Christopher said.