Online inflation hits record high; apparel has highest rise

Marianne Wilson
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Apparel prices were up 16.7% year-over-year in February.

February marked the 21st consecutive month of online inflation.

Online prices in February increased 3.6% year-over-year and 0.1% month-over-month, according to the Adobe Digital Price Index. This is a new record high, after the previous record in November 2021 when prices rose 3.5% year-over-year. It also marks the 21st consecutive month of year-over-year online inflation.

In February, 13 of the 18 categories tracked by the DPI saw year-over-year price increases, with apparel rising the most, up 16.7%. The category has seen nearly a full year of online inflation (11 consecutive months), Adobe noted, and it is a departure from a predictable pattern pre-pandemic, where seasonal discounting drove peaks and valleys in apparel prices online.

In the grocery category, prices rose 7.6% year-over-year (up 1.9% month-over-month), the highest increase for the category on an annual basis. February marked the 25th consecutive month where online prices have risen for groceries, making it the only category that has moved in lockstep with the Consumer Price Index.

In February, five categories had year-over-year price drops; electronics, jewelry, books, toys and computers.

On a month-over-month basis, there were price drops in electronics, jewelry, appliances, computers and medical equipment/supplies.

Here is a recap of other notable categories tracked by the Adobe DPI.

Tools and Home Improvement: Prices were up 7.8% year-over-year (up 0.8% month-over-month), the highest increase for the category on an annual basis. The previous high point was over the 2021 holiday season, where online prices were up 7.1% YoY in December 2021. February also marks the 15th consecutive month of YoY inflation for the category.

Office Supplies: After eight consecutive months where online prices fell or were flat on an annual basis, office supplies were up again for a second month with prices up 1.8% YoY (up 0.3% MoM) in February.

In the month prior, prices increased by 1.5% YoY (up 2.2% MoM). The unpredictability of COVID-19 variants has kept many consumers working from home still, driving up demand and prices for products in home offices.

Pet Products: Prices were up 5.6% YoY (up 1.3% MoM) and have been steadily rising for the last 10 months. In May 2021, prices were only up 0.9% YoY (up 0.1% MoM). As a newer category in e-commerce, prices have risen since May 2020, as more consumers brought pets into their homes, which boosted demand.

The Adobe DPI provides a comprehensive view into how much consumers pay for goods online. Powered by Adobe Analytics, it analyzes one trillion visits to retail sites and over 100 million SKUs across 18 product categories: electronics, apparel, appliances, books, toys, computers, groceries, furniture/bedding, tools/home improvement, home/garden, pet products, jewelry, medical equipment/supplies, sporting goods, personal care products, flowers/related gifts, non-prescription drugs and office supplies.

The DPI is modeled after the Consumer Price Index (CPI), published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and uses the Fisher Price Index to track online prices. The Fisher Price Index uses quantities of matched products purchased in the current period (month) and a previous period (previous month) to calculate the price changes by category. Adobe’s analysis is weighted by the real quantities of the products purchased in the two adjacent months.