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As Retail Prices Rise, Companies Try Not to Say It Out Loud

  • Executives instead opt for euphemisms such as ‘taking pricing’
  • Consumers are paying more for clothing, groceries, other goods
Inside A Costco Wholesale Location Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

From clothing to cereal to trash bags, prices are going up fast. But many companies aren’t saying that, at least not in language most shoppers would recognize.

If you ask Pampers maker Procter & Gamble Co., it’s not raising prices, it’s “taking pricing.” Rival Unilever, known for Dove soap and Axe body spray, says it’s been “very active with pricing.” The prize for creativity -- so far at least -- has been home-improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos., whose finance chief told investors Wednesday that it was “elevating our pricing ecosystem.”

The euphemisms illustrate the rhetorical backflips companies perform to avoid saying what they’re actually doing -- responding to soaring input and transportation costs, and protecting their profit margins, by making their products more expensive. The makers and sellers of consumer staples notched big stock gains last year thanks to pandemic stockpiling and are now under pressure to maintain that performance even as costs go up, labor markets tighten and they face extremely tough comparisons with last year’s growth.