Clothing Prices Start To Move Higher, as Retailers Test Shoppers’ Reaction

Following a 150 percent rise in cotton prices since August, apparel makers are now turning to cheaper fabrics, and scaling back details like tags and buttons to trim expenses. Further, retailers are also mulling higher prices, with some analysts seeing hikes of 10 to 20 percent by year’s end, the Boston Globe reports.

Many stores, which have kept prices flat or lower during the recession, have begun raising prices this spring to test how customers react, and more increases are expected for the upcoming back-to-school season. Some retail analysts say the projected 10 to 20 percent increases are the result of soaring costs for cotton, labor, oil, and other commodities, the Globe reports. Since 1995, apparel prices have dropped 12 percent, while prices for food, medical services, and energy prices have all experienced double-digit increases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Industry trade group Cotton Inc. recently released estimates that consumers could pay up to $2.42 more for a pair of jeans if retailers passed on the entire price increase to shoppers. The group acknowledged that this projection accounts only for cotton fiber and not other commodities, but also said a new survey revealed that consumers would be willing to pay more than 20 percent above the average price for a pair of jeans and T-shirt, if necessary. “The last thing a retailer or brand wants to do is sacrifice quality or ask the consumer to pay more for less,’’ said Melissa Bastos of Cotton Inc.

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