It’s the war in Ukraine and gasoline and fuel oil prices that are pushing inflation to 40-year highs, but fashion is also playing its part, seeing increases that could ultimately shape the relationship between brand and consumer.
Clothing and footwear prices for the month were up 6.8 percent from a year ago, only slightly ahead of the 6.5 percent jump seen in the Department of Labor’s reading of core inflation, or prices of all goods outside the volatile food and energy sectors.
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Prices for women’s clothing increased by 6.5%, while men’s prices increased by 8.8% and footwear increased by 6.6%.
The increase reflects the strong rebound in consumers since the start of the pandemic, but also the supply chain tangles fueled by COVID-19 that are blocking shipments and shutting down factories.
It all seemed like a lot of trouble for the world and the economy, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine put extreme stress on a global economic system that was already under pressure.
Russia is a key producer of energy, and the war – and ensuing sanctions from the West – have helped drive prices much higher. Gasoline prices rose 48 percent from a year ago, while fuel oil rose 70 percent.
All of this affects fashion in several ways. Brands and retailers are paying to bring goods into the country and to consumers, just as shoppers find themselves inundated by rising prices.
As Washington is moving to fight inflation and the Federal Reserve has begun to raise interest rates, Stephen Lamar, president and chief executive of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said President Joseph Biden can do more and quickly.
Lamar pointed to tariffs on China that were first imposed by President Donald Trump, but they have lagged and are increasing costs and prices for industries, such as fashion, that produce goods there.
“The cost of the tariffs is something the president can do very quickly and he can do it himself,” Lamar said, noting that Biden said he wanted to use all the tools at his disposal to reduce inflation. “If they want to use all the tools in the toolbox to provide relief to US consumers, they can remove this tariff burden.”
As of the end of March, additional tariffs on China totaled $ 132 million, and more than $ 55 billion was raised during Biden’s presidency.
While the tariffs were presented by Trump as part of a tough approach to China, Lamar and importers argued that tariffs do not punish other countries, but American companies that bring in goods from abroad.
However, China did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, perhaps making it a politically difficult time for Biden to take steps that, even in the Beltway’s echo chamber, could be seen as rewarding for China.
But Lamar said abandoning tariffs would help bring prices down now.
“Removing the tariffs is something the president can do before this sentence is over,” Lamar said. “He does not want to be seen as weak towards China, but this is an issue that has been defined by the last president. The last president was not hard on China, he was hard on the American consumer. What they should do is put the American consumer first, not some flawed economic reasoning used by the latest administration. ”
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