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US Jeans Imports from China Sink 67 Percent

With demand diminished by widespread store closures and tens of millions out of work, and supply limited by factory closures in many areas as the coronavirus pandemic brought large swaths of society to a standstill, the value of U.S. denim apparel imports fell 23.73 percent to $809.75 million year to date through April.

This was much steeper than the 13.95 percent decline in year-to-date imports of the category–mostly denim jeans–in the first three months of the year, according to the monthly report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

The period was dominated by unprecedented disturbances that began in early February with extended Chinese factory closures after the standard Lunar New Year shutdowns and was followed by COVID-19 sweeping through the country and then spreading across the globe in the next two months.

The falloff in imports was shared unevenly among the Top 10 suppliers. Imports from Mexico, holding a top-spot 19.68 percent market share for the 12 months through April, nosedived 44.88 percent to $144.06 million in the first four months of the year, with most factories just reopening after being closed since March.

Some feel the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), set to take effect on July 1, will help boost denim exports.

“[USMCA] will position Mexico, once again, as the key player for growth and recovery to all of the brands that are looking to start sourcing and diversifying their supply chain,” Anatt Finkler, creative director at Global Denim, said in recent virtual roundtable discussion.

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Imports from China declined a staggering 67.54 percent year to date through April to $74.3 million, bringing the once-dominant country down to a third-place, 15.55 percent market share after a 41.88 percent decline over the 12 months. Imports from China have been in a long-term downward spiral since the trade war with the U.S. brought on significant tariffs and uncertainty, and caused many companies to shift production out of the country.

Picking up some of the slack among the key suppliers were Bangladesh, with denim apparel imports rising 14.68 percent in value to $149.3 million year to date and market share increasing to 17.36 percent; Vietnam, up 20.26 percent in the period to $100.34 million and a market share jump to 11.18 percent, and Pakistan, rising 5.44 percent to $78.63 million. Smaller-scale gains were also posted by Cambodia, with a 76.98 percent increase to $47.85 million, and Sri Lanka, up 9.17 percent to $18.46 million.

Other countries with drop-offs in jeans imports to the U.S. in the period included Egypt, with a 12.62 percent decline to $40.63 million; Nicaragua, falling 20.35 percent to $25.78 million, and Indonesia, down 38.97 percent to $14.89 million.