I've been hearing it for years in the context of wholesaling. I find it on Google books in Economics texts from the early 1900s, where it refers to a particular price value in a graph or equasion of a relation, such as supply and demand.
Could it be growing in use because it makes the speaker sound more academic?
While I do see people use "price point" when just "price" would do, there is a real difference in the terms and I also see many correct uses of "price point." Dictionaries define it variably: New Oxford American Dictionary: "a point on a scale of possible prices at which something might be marketed." Merriam-Webster: "the standard price set by the manufacturer for a product."
I would probably define it with a bit more nuance in a specialized dictionary, something like, "a value assigned to product or service by its provider or manufacturer that puts it within a range similar to other similar products or services."
Price points are what you see when similar products offering similar capabilities tend to have similar prices. They're set by a formula involving the cost to provide the product or service, plus knowledge of what the market will bear, plus positioning against similar but more expensive products, plus a bit of psychology. Look for ads that say things like "The first X below $100." It'll be $99 -- a good psychological price point because two figures seems a lot smaller than three figures, even though they're only a dollar apart. But the final selling price -- the amount that changes hands -- may reflect taxes, fees, rebates, accessories, warranties, insurance, etc.
So, the price point is the target range at which marketers think a product can successfully be sold. The price is the amount it actually sells for. Engineers are asked to make products for a price point marketers know consumers will go for. Leave out this, use a cheaper version of that, make the other thing smaller, voila, it's at the magic price point where millions will sell. A little higher price point, few would be sold.
I would argue that "price point" is more common than it used to be because marketing is more sophisticated, the teaching of marketing is more widespread, and the commercialization of the modern world is pervasive, right down to the flyers I see for chili suppers.
Adding to Grant's reasoning, I associate that term with the advent of online shopping — a suggestion that a product's suggested retail price is merely the starting point for an internet seller. It seems that most third-party reviews (in magazines, etc.) will include the manufacturer's price, with the caveat that you can find the product for much less online. A $299 camera may be a steal at that price, but at a $299 price point, it's going to be an even bigger bargain at $249.