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China’s Denim Exports to US Slide, as Other Major Suppliers Gain Ground

It’s likely that no matter what happens with the Trump administration’s threat to impose stiff punitive tariffs on Chinese apparel imports, damage has already been done.

Many importers have clearly taken the risk of 25 percent duties on Chinese goods and decided to sew them into their sourcing strategies, limiting their exposure to the once-dominant Chinese market, even with the imposition of those tariffs now on hold. Supply chain diversification is in full effect and the latest data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA) reflects it.

“People are diversifying their denim sourcing locations. Some people are getting out of China and some people are staying in China,” Robert Antoshak, managing director at Olah Inc., said. “There is definitely confusion in the marketplace.”

The swing in production is most evident among the top suppliers of blue denim apparel, 97 percent of which are jeans. Denim apparel imports from China dropped 5.16 percent in value to $287.49 million in the year through May, compared to the same period in 2018. This brought China’s market share for jeans imports down 1.77 percent to 23.35 percent for the year.

The next four top suppliers all gained ground on China in the 12-month period, according to OTEXA.

In the second place spot, Mexico, which has had its own round of tariff threats from the White House, though they seem to have subsided for now, saw its jeans imports increase 17.61 percent in the first five months of the year to reach $332.43 million in value. Mexico’s market share rose 11.55 percent to 21.98 percent for the year.

Denim apparel imports from third-place supplier, Bangladesh, were up 6.26 percent year to date to $183.42 million, as the country’s market share advanced 7.61 percent to 14.62 percent. Vietnam’s jeans shipments to the U.S. jumped 35 percent to $105.07 million in the first five months of the year, compared to the year-ago period. This lifted Vietnam’s market share 40.49 percent to 8.2 percent.

Rounding out the top five was Pakistan, with its shipments to the U.S. increasing 10.58 percent to $95.37 million. Pakistan’s market share was up 11.87 percent in the 12 months to 6.48 percent.

“There’s no doubt that the trade war between the U.S. and China has resulted in production being spread out across Asia and being a Pakistan manufacturer, we have benefited,” Ebru Ozaydin, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Artistic Milliners, said at last month’s Kingpins New York show.

The Western Hemisphere, led by Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, continued to increase its denim production, too.

Imports from the region rose 14.83 percent year to date through May to $414.07 million. This gave the Western Hemisphere a 27.64 percent market share, with a 10.4 percent gain for the year.

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