US apparel prices continued to edge up in July as stay-at-home restrictions eased across much of the country and consumers returned to shopping in stores – helping lift the core consumer price index to a 30-year high.
The latest figures released today (12 August) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the consumer price index rose 0.6% from the prior month, following a 0.6% gain in June.
Excluding food and fuel, the so-called core CPI rose 0.6% in July – the largest increase since January 1991.
Month-on-month prices for clothing edged up 1.1% in July, although this was lower than the 1.7% rise seen in June. June’s gain marked the first rise in three months, after demand slumped during the initial stages of the pandemic.
Drilling down even further, it is clear that apparel prices have been decimated during the Covid-19 crisis, with working from home stifling demand for formal clothing and consumers instead stocking up on comfortable and above-the-keyboard clothes.
Compared with July last year, apparel prices overall are down 6.5% on an unadjusted basis, led by big drops in men’s suits (-12.8%), men’s shirts (-10.8%), women’s dresses (-23.1%), women’s outerwear (-15.3%) and women’s suits (-9.6%). Boys’ apparel prices were down 3.7% and girls’ apparel prices were 4.4% lower than July last year.
The numbers also reflect the fact that apparel brands and retailers have turned more promotional in recent months as they attempt to clear a backlog of unsold stock.