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Jeans Imports From China Tumble as Sourcing Gets Increasingly Diverse

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Denim apparel importers are ramping up their flight from China and bringing their sourcing to many points on the globe.

U.S. blue denim apparel imports–the vast majority of which are jeans–from China fell 11.01 percent in the year to date through July, to a value of $461.82 million, according to new data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). The drop is dramatic compared to overall apparel imports from China in the same period, which were up 2.33 percent to $14.47 billion ahead of this month’s imposition of 15 percent tariffs on apparel imports from the country.

Carlos Alberini, CEO of Guess Inc., said last week, “For next year, we expect to reduce the estimated tariff risk from China production into the U.S. to only 12 percent of our total apparel production. We are still working on this to further reduce our dependency on China.”

Similarly, Bob Madore, chief financial officer of American Eagle Outfitters, said, “We continue to make progress in further reducing our exposure to China tariffs through a combination of partnering with vendors and diversifying our geographic production capabilities.”

China’s jeans market share came down to 22.48 percent, just a tick above Mexico’s 22.27 percent, according to OTEXA. For the first seven months of the year, jeans imports from Mexico grew 12.53 percent in value to $483.58 million, topping China’s shipments so far this year. This was notably in contrast to Mexico’s overall apparel shipments in the period, which were down 2.94 percent to $1.89 billion.

Among the suppliers gaining ground this year from Asia were Vietnam, with imports to the U.S. up 30.24 percent to $192.74 million, and Pakistan, with shipments rising 8.72 percent to $148.3 million. Losing ground in the region were Bangladesh; with imports down 1.51 percent to $306.82 million, Cambodia, which saw shipments decline 9.48 percent to $60.76 million, and Indonesia, which dropped 13.89 percent to $40.21 million. Sourcing executives have pointed to labor and quality issues in these countries as the reasons for brands shying away from manufacturing there.

Production picked up in the Western Hemisphere, where Nicaragua saw its shipments to the U.S. increase 28.57 percent to $67.71 million, and Guatemala, with shipments up 13.25 percent to $20.37 million. Overall Western Hemisphere jeans imports to the U.S. were up 10.66 percent in the period to $605.13 million. For the year through July, the region saw its market share reach 28 percent.

Africa continues to get more attention from denim apparel producers, too. Countries showing substantial gains this year include Egypt, Jordan, Madagascar, Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

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