Could last month’s substantial hike in price inflation for dresses — 7.1 percent to be precise — be a sign of things to come? Retail prices for every other women’s category declined in March, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index.
This story first appeared in the April 19, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But further increases may lie ahead, due to the skyrocketing cost of cotton and ever-climbing transportation costs, according to John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Group. “The jump in dress prices could perhaps be a signal of things to come. But as retailers and manufacturers try to spill over these higher costs, the question is whether consumers will resist the price hikes so much that manufacturers and retailers will have to retrench,” said Lonski, noting that year-to-year cotton prices are up 150 percent.
This spring, an assortment of stores including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, H&M and Target have highlighted shirtdresses, which frequently are made of cotton. But more often than not demand based on popularity can put pressure on stores and manufacturers to send prices skyward, he said.
Dresses have been a top performing category in recent years. And celebrity-conscious shoppers may have already seen online and on TV that Alexa Chung, Alessandra Ambrosio and Kate Bosworth opted for dresses at last weekend’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival.