US Consumer Prices Flat In September, Apparel Falls

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Inflation stalled in September, according to the most recent consumer price index (CPI) data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

After edging up slightly in each of the prior three months, the overall CPI was flat last month compared to September 2014, as declines in gasoline prices offset increases in food, shelter, medical care and other goods and services.

The core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy, rose by 1.9%, due primarily to increases in housing and medical service costs. The combined apparel and footwear price index fell by 1.4%, its eleventh straight month of decline.

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The index for clothing, also in its eleventh straight month down, dropped by 1.6%. Footwear prices edged down by 0.5% in the month, the first decline since June 2014.

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A 2.4% drop in prices of women’s apparel, the largest segment in the market, was largely responsible for price erosion in the category. Traditional apparel retailers continue to feel the pressure and share gains by fast fashion brands like H&M and Forever 21, and of off-price formats like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Saks off Fifth and others. This past month, Irish cheap and chic retailer Primark opened its first U.S. store, in Boston’s Downtown Crossing area.

Men’s apparel prices remained all but flat, edging down 0.2% in the month.

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While boys’ apparel prices declined by just 1.3%, prices of girlswear plunged by 4.6%. Infants’ and toddlers’ prices rose the most of any category, by 5.9% in the month.

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