Manufacturers for items from bedding to boots have been sweating price hikes in cotton, leather and other textiles. And, the costs of doing business in China, from sewing to shipping, have increased as well.
"It's a dirty little secret in the retail industry: To avoid retail price increases, retailers and manufacturers 'value-engineer' a product to reduce its cost by purposely taking the quality out of products to make that price point a reality for you, the consumer," says James Dion, president of Dionco, a Chicago-based retail consulting firm. "You will see this with smaller brands and private-label products at discount merchants and off-price retailers where the prices seem to actually get lower."
"Prices for popular name-brand footwear (think UGG and Nike) are still increasing 5 percent to 7 percent more this year with the quality and workmanship what you'd expect," says Mike Featherston, president and CEO of ICB International, a footwear development and resourcing company. "Not every manufacturer or retailer has cut corners, but be very careful at evaluating low-cost, no-name merchandise."