WASHINGTON — Retail apparel prices rose in March, driven by increases in the women’s and men’s sectors, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index released Friday.
Women’s apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in March, while men’s prices also increased 0.7 percent last month. Apparel prices overall rose 0.5 percent.
There was some weakness in retail apparel prices, as girl’s apparel prices fell 1.7 percent and boy’s prices dropped 0.8 percent last month.
In the women’s category, prices for the combined category of underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories rose 1.4 percent, while prices for suits and separates increased 1.2 percent and dress prices were up 1.1 percent. Prices for outerwear fell 3.6 percent.
In men’s wear, prices for furnishings rose 4.8 percent, while prices for pants and shorts increased 0.5 percent. Prices for the combined suits, sport coats and outerwear category inched up 0.1 percent last month, as prices for shirts and sweaters fell 1.7 percent.
The overall CPI rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent. Core retail prices excluding volatile food and energy prices were also up 0.2 percent.
“The big story is the end of food-price surges,” said Michael Montgomery, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. “Food at home was 0.5 percent cheaper than in February, with matching drops in both meats and dairy and almost three times that decline in fruits and vegetables.”
Montgomery said the end of food-store price surges means “food shifts to the back burner as a consumer worry.”
In addition, falling energy prices, which were 18.3 percent lower than in March 2014, is also positive news for consumers, he said.
“Gasoline has already moved away as a concern and there is nothing much for buyers to be worried about as the strong dollar will keep imported goods prices weak, and services generally follow broad price measures with a long-enough lag that there is nothing threatening for most of the balance of 2015,” Montgomery added.