Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — October wholesale prices for U.S.-produced women’s apparel continued to edge up, rising 0.3 percent against September, keeping pace with the moderate 0.4 percent monthly rise in all finished goods, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.
Compared to October 1995, the women’s apparel prices were also up 0.3 percent, compared to a 2.3 percent increase for all finished goods.
As Labor’s Producer Price Index signaled a continued low inflationary picture at the producer level, the Federal Reserve decided Tuesday to not increase interest rates.
Carl Priestland, economist, American Apparel Manufacturers Association, said a combination of low fabric prices, stability in labor costs and customer pressure to not raise prices have worked to keep industry prices in check. The October hike in women’s prices followed a 0.1 percent rise in September.
“But I do see demand increasing a little bit and prices may then increase a little bit,” Priestland said.
All apparel prices in October increased 0.2 percent and were up 0.6 percent from year-ago levels. Prices for men’s and boys’ apparel in October rose 0.2 percent for the month and were up 1.2 percent against October 1995.
Prices for textiles declined 0.1 percent for the month and were up 1 percent over the year. The industry, which appears to be pulling itself out of a slump, is keeping prices in check largely due to declining raw-material prices and a need to stay competitive, said Dave Link, chief economist, American Textile Manufacturers Institute. “Things aren’t strong enough to pass along price increases,” he said.
The textile industry saw new orders in September increase after a slow summer, according to the latest data available. Orders for the month were $6.5 billion, up from August’s $6.4 billion. Shipments for the month were $6.49 billion, just above August’s $6.427 billion.
Year-to-date, the value of textile shipments stands at $58 billion, which is 2.8 percent below the same period last year. Orders are down too, dipping 2 percent to $57.6 billion year-to-date.
“We need to see October and November’s orders looking strong before we can say we’re on track here,” Link said.
Meanwhile, among the women’s apparel categories with price fluctuations in October were foundations and accessories, which were up 3.9 percent for the month and increased 5 percent over the year. Dress prices inched up 1 percent last month against September and increased 1.1 percent over the 12-month period, as prices for slacks and jeans dipped 0.1 percent for the month and were down 0.5 percent from October 1995.