WASHINGTON — Overall apparel prices fell in September, as retailers saw declines in the women’s and men’s apparel categories, the U.S. Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed Tuesday.
Apparel prices declined a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent last month, driven by a 1.3 percent drop in men’s prices and a 0.2 percent in women’s prices. There were signs of pricing strength, however, in the girls’ apparel category, which posted a 1.1 percent increase, and the boys’ apparel category, which saw a 1.3 rise in prices.
Within the women’s sector, outerwear prices plunged 8.2 percent, while prices for dresses fell 1.8 percent. Prices for suits and separates dropped 0.8 percent. Retailers found some pricing power in the combined underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories category, which saw an uptick of 3.5 percent.
In men’s wear, prices for pants and shorts fell 2.9 percent, while prices for shirts and sweaters declined 2.5 percent. Prices for the combined suits, sport coats and outerwear category fell 2.1 percent but prices for furnishings rose 1.4 percent.
The overall CPI rose 0.3 percent last month, driven primarily by energy costs, while core prices, excluding food and energy, increased 0.1 percent.
Chris G. Christopher Jr., U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, said core consumer prices have been “well behaved,” increasing 0.1 percent in September after rising 0.3 percent in August.
“Apparel prices took a beating in September, while housing edged up 0.4 percent in September after clocking in 0.3 percent in August and also in July,” Christopher said. “Higher energy costs are being mitigated by lower grocery store prices.”
Christopher noted there was good and bad news in the report. On the positive side, food prices were flat and core prices moderated. On the negative side, energy prices increased and gasoline “spiked.”
“Energy prices and several pieces of core consumer prices came in slightly stronger than expected,” he added. “This moves our third-quarter real consumer spending growth forecast to 2.5 percent from a 2.6 percent rate. Currently, our third-quarter real GDP growth estimate is standing at 1.8 percent.”