Inflation slowed in March for all goods and services, but surged for apparel, driven by increases in childrenswear. Consumer prices rose 2.7% overall in March compared to the same month last year, down slightly from February’s increase and a continuation of the slow, steady drop since September 2011, when prices increased by 3.9% year-on-year.
The core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy, was up by only 2.3%, a bit higher than January’s increase, as prices of nondiscretionary items like food and energy remain relatively high.
The price of apparel played a major role here, rising 5.8% vs. only 5% in February. Footwear prices increased by only 1.2% in the month. Many apparel brands and retailers have raised prices in the past year to help cover higher labor and shipping costs, and it appears that the increases have stuck.
Women’s and teen specialty stores reported strong sales of full-priced colorful Spring apparel. Women’s apparel prices increased 4.9% in the month, the smallest increase. Menswear rose 5.1%, while the infant’s and children’s apparel price index surged 7.5%.
Much of the childrenswear increase was seasonal, due to a larger-than-normal proportion of dressy clothing in anticipation of Easter.