Friday, March 20, 2009

Men's Apparel Sticker Shock and Interview Sweaters

Forget gold as the store of value... Highbeam reports:

Retail prices for men's apparel in February increased a seasonally adjusted 1 percent against January, well ahead of the average price for all consumer goods, which advanced 0.2 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday in its monthly Consumer Price Index.
On a year-over-year basis, however, men's apparel prices last month lagged that of the overall inflation rate, increasing 1.2 percent against February 1995 as prices for all retail goods rose 2.7 percent. Although men's wear retailers are pushing through moderate price increases, they are still under pressure to give value to consumers. Prices for boys' apparel in February reflected deep.
In looking at the six month change in the 'men's apparel' portion of CPI vs. the index, we see a spike that is unprecedented.

So what's the deal? My guess was that the demand for suits was rocketing as individuals are being thrown out of the workforce and once again interviewing (and suits being expensive would push the average price level higher). However, looking at the data we see that it isn't suits that are on the rise... it's shirts and sweaters. The WSJ asks:
What is going on with the price of mens’ shirts and sweaters? Over the last two months these prices are up at a 64% annualized rate. Mens’ apparel more generally is up at a record 29% rate, contributing to the strong 1.3% sequential increase in apparel prices in today’s report.

On a side note; while I will admit my explanation was wrong, in doing some more research I discovered that men are actually interviewing in sweaters these days (have I been in finance and New York City too long?). with the details in 'Dressing for a Job Interview':
With comfortable, professional clothes in mind, it is OK to wear a blazer or sweater over a tie and chinos when dressing for a job interview in the service industry. You want to look responsible and well-pressed as well as approachable to the public.
Not sure what I understand less; why men's apparel is on the rise or why people wear sweaters to interview. But while interview sweaters are a fascinating concept, if I can figure out why the price level of men's apparel is on the rise, I may be able to make some money buying the right retailer.

Any ideas?


  1. "I may be able to make some money buying the right retailer.

    Any ideas? "

    Put everything you have into sweater vests.

  2. A possible BLS mistake? A weird statistical sampling error? Who knows?

  3. Hm... Ideas... Your post instantly reminded me of this great if a bit unusual article that appeared on Mises Institute website about two weeks ago: Dress Like the Great Depression. Jeff Tucker was predicting a huge comeback of neat men's dress. It seems the guy was right.

  4. It's close to the interview suit but slightly different. People are worried about losing their job so they are trying to dress a bit better.

    I mean you have to admit it is tough to fire someone wearing a great sweater...

  5. i celebrate a dress shirt under a sweater. it defines class and independemce

  6. Put everything you have into denim vests.