Signs of Life for the Apparel Sector in December’s Consumer Prices

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After months of pandemic induced dormancy, the U.S. apparel sector is showing signs of revival.

Apparel prices rose in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to government data released Wednesday. The consumer price index for apparel rose 1.4 percent, the second consecutive monthly gain. In November, the apparel index gained 0.9 percent compared with the prior month.

The price increases are likely a signal of rising demand, indicating that U.S. consumers are once again spending to stock their closets and dressers with new clothing.

Clothing sales were hard hit hard by the pandemic. ISales crashed in March and April due to widespread closures of retail outlets and stay-at-home rules. They recovered somewhat in May and June, only to begin falling again and keep falling in the summer and early autumn as remote working and education discouraged people from spending on clothes.

Prices of men’s suits, sportscoats, and outerwear, for instance, are down 13.4 percent compared with a year ago. Women’s dresses are down 11.2 percent and women’s suits are down 8.8 percent. Meanwhile, men’s underwear and pajamas rose 3.2 percent, far outpacing the meager 1.3 percent gain in overall inflation.

That started to turn around in November and accelerated in December. Men’s suit prices rose 2.2 percent in November and 4.6 percent in December. Men’s shirts and sweaters rose 3.7 percent in November and 4.8 percent in December. Dress prices climbed more than 3 percent in each month and women’s suit prices climbed 2.1 percent in December, the first gain since early summer.

Prices of men and women’s underwear, nightwear, and swimswear did not follow this trend. The women’s category rose 1.2 percent in November and then fell by the same amount in December. It is down 4.6 percent annually. Men’s underwear fell 2.6 percent in December after falling 2.4 percent in November.

 

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