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MINNEAPOLIS, MN-Driven by a strong fashion cycle, pricing trends are showing continued improvement for several key moderately priced retail players, a study by Piper Jaffray shows.

The study, which captured approximately 28.5% of all apparel sales in the United States, found that J.C. Penney appeared to lead in pricing power during the Spring season with a 2.8% pricing increase with prices up by 4.5% in March and 4.7% in April before losing momentum in May when pricing showed a 1% increase. Piper Jaffray said the company’s commitment to its denim inventory, which had strong consumer appeal, helped the firm benefit more than its competitors in terms of pricing during the Spring season.

Target also fared well on the pricing forefront, showing consistent strength during the same three month period. The study found that Target delivered the greatest pricing increases overall during the period with pricing up 4.8%. The company also was the most consistent during that period despite fluctuations in overall same-store sales. Piper Jaffray said Target’s success is largely due to its “trend right branded products” which are aimed at a higher income customer than some of its discount competitors.

At Kohl’s, promotional pricing trends were down 1.9% for the three-month period but showed a significant improvement over the prior year, the study said. Although the company displayed lower pricing trends than its competitors, Piper Jaffray said the firm may have had more seasonal products than its peers during the spring season, leading to pricing pressure due to the period’s unfavorable weather. Despite the slight decline over last year, Piper Jaffray said it was encouraged by Kohl’s improving top line trends and its assortment of trend right national and priority brands.

Sears showed a moderate 4.7% improvement in pricing during March, the study found, but pricing declined 0.4% in April and 4.3% in May for an overall pricing increase of 1.3% for the three-month period.

Overall apparel sales for all four retailers should improve with continued price stability, Piper Jaffrey said, although continued economic uncertainty, changing fashion trends, lack of mall traffic and potential markdowns pose some risks.

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