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Inflation Raged in Stores in November but Fell Online

Even prices of nonholiday items, such as personal care products, dropped

illustration of e-commerce with a shopping cart surrounded by a field of semi-transparent computer icons and numbers
iStock / Getty Images

Inflation nationwide is still smoldering at a 7.1 percent pace, but there’s one area where it’s falling: the internet. 

The government’s consumer price index (CPI) rose 7.1 percent in the 12 months that ended in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although that was less than expected, it’s still exceptionally high, and consumers are feeling the pinch. Everyone needs energy, which rose 13.1 percent the past 12 months, and we all have to eat. Food prices rose 10.6 percent. 

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But most people use the internet, too, which has been a portal for bargains, especially during the holiday shopping season. The inflation news in cyberspace is good: Adobe’s Digital Price Index (DPI), which measures more than 1 trillion visits to retail internet sites, says online prices fell 3.2 percent in November from October. In the past 12 months, the DPI is down 1.9 percent, the largest drop in 31 months.

Biggest declines

Computers prices fell 5.1 percent in November from October, and electronics tumbled 4.5 percent. (On a 12-month basis, computer prices are down 18 percent and electronics are down 13.4 percent.) Many stores offered deep discounts on laptops and online game platforms between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

“While the November drop in online prices was driven by major discounting on days including Cyber Monday and Black Friday, we also see signs of overall e-commerce inflation cooling,” Patrick Brown, Adobe’s vice president of growth marketing and insights, said in a statement. “In categories such as groceries and personal care, which are not promotional in nature, we are seeing price increases come down from their heights in late summer and early fall.”

Other categories showed signs of slowing inflation — even those whose prices aren’t normally slashed at 12 o’clock in the morning on Black Friday. Personal care products fell 3.4 percent from the previous month and are up just 1.8 percent from the previous year. The price of home and garden supplies fell 3.4 percent in November, and office supplies fell 0.9 percent. 

Still some increases

Consumers looking for relief from rising food prices didn’t find much comfort online. Grocery prices, boosted by a hurricane in Florida and avian flu around the country, rose 0.3 percent in November and 13.7 percent over the past 12 months. Pet food rose 11 percent the past 12 months but fell 0.2 percent in November.

Although inflation remains stubbornly high, the rate of its increase has decreased. According to Adobe, prices in 15 of the DPI categories fell in November. Prices in three categories — groceries, nonprescription drugs and medical equipment/supplies — rose.

Despite high inflation, shoppers opened their wallets wide in November, dropping $116.5 billion, up 62.5 percent from October and 1.7 percent for the previous 12 months.