WASHINGTON — The pricing power of domestically produced apparel had no shoulders in March.
Wholesale prices for U.S.-made women’s and girls’ apparel, which represent a shrinking percentage of goods sold at retail, were unchanged against February, the Labor Department reported Thursday in its Producer Price Index.
One exception was dresses, which had a 0.9 percent upward swing in the month among the women’s and girls’ products tracked by the government.
The lack of pricing strength was also evident at U.S. textile mills, which saw prices in March fall 1.1 percent against February. Year-over-year price comparisons for U.S.-made apparel and textiles are unavailable, due to changes in December in data collection.
Charles McMillion, chief economist with MBG Information Services, blamed competition from low-cost apparel and textile imports for the flat pricing. McMillion noted that for textile mills, the deflationary climate “is one of the principle things driving the consolidation of the industry.” Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, earlier this week told a congressional panel that deflationary pressures had eased in the U.S. economy, but did not address apparel and textiles specifically.
The decline in textile prices comes as the cost of U.S. cotton fiber has risen 9.5 percent over the year, and processed yarns and thread prices have risen 4.2 percent for the period, squeezing profits for fabric firms. At the same time, synthetic fiber prices were down 1.3 percent for the year.
— Joanna Ramey