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US Jeans Imports Suffer Steep Fall in First Half

Crushed under the weight of the pandemic’s economic devastation, U.S. denim apparel importers slashed orders to the point of bringing down the value of shipments entering the country 37.82 percent in the first half of the year to $1.08 billion compared to the first six months of 2019.

According to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA), Cambodia, with a nearly 40 percent increase, and Vietnam, with a less that 1 percent rise in jeans imports, were the only Top 10 suppliers without significant declines in the period. With the coronavirus sweeping through the country starting in March, most stores were shut until May or June, and massive unemployment caused even online shoppers to curtail purchasing, leading brands and retailers to cut back on their production around the world.

Julia Hughes, president of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), said denim imports have been hit hard, just like every other type of apparel, “by the collapse in trade and in retail in response to the global pandemic.”

OTEXA reported that imports from top supplier Bangladesh fell 23.04 percent to $190.14 million in the period, while second-place Mexico’s shipments were off 54.9 percent to $184.94 million. No. 3 Vietnam was able to squeeze out a 0.67 percent increase in the half to a value of $143.57 million, while imports from Cambodia jumped 39.52 percent to $64.03 million.

Hughes said countries with a growing share of U.S. denim imports are mainly Asian suppliers.

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“Vietnam and Cambodia, in particular, are selling more denim to the U.S. today,” Hughes added.

Much of that market share is being taken from China, which saw a 67.38 percent plunge in the first half imports to $120.82 million. China’s market share was cut in half for the year ended June 30 and now holds just a 14.52 percent piece of the jeans import market pie.

Vietnam, by contrast, saw its market share for the 12 months increase 13.54 percent to 12.14 percent and Cambodia’s market share rose 32.87 percent to 4.69 percent.

As for the rest of the top suppliers, Pakistan’s shipments fell 15.9 percent to $100.68 million, Egypt’s declined 34.98 percent to $48.9 million, Nicaragua’s dropped 34.18 percent to $36.32 million, Sri Lanka’s slid 21.7 percent to $20.15 million and Indonesia’s declined 45.88 percent to $19.27 percent.

The only other countries to post import gains in the first half were African countries that have been on the rise as suppliers. Imports from Ethiopia increased 10.97 percent to $9.36 million in the six months and shipments from Tanzania rose 37.02 percent to $6.59 million.