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US Jeans Imports Point to Ongoing Denim Demand

To keep up with the strong denim jeans demand, U.S. brands and retailers imported 40.78 percent more product year over year through May compared to the same period in 2021, for a total value of $1.61 billion, according to new data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

This was steady with pace of blue denim apparel imports in the first four months of 2022.

Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss Co., told investors on a conference call Thursday that the company has been “moving with agility to capitalize on global casualization trends, fueling strong growth for Levi’s, while also driving strong underlying category growth that continues to outpace apparel.”

“The continuation of casualization is a dynamic that’s playing out globally,” Bergh said. “But the U.S. jeans market–just got the data for the last 12 months ending May–U.S. jeans [sales] were up 19 percent and that was faster than total apparel.”

He said according to some recent consumer research, more consumers are now wearing jeans in professional settings.

“The CEO is probably just happy that people are coming into work and wearing a pair of jeans is perfectly acceptable today,” Bergh said. “And that’s very different than a pre-pandemic world. More than half of the people that were surveyed…say they can now wear jeans to work.”

Imports from top supplier Bangladesh increased 54.16 percent to $336.61 million, outpacing the 51 percent year to date gain through April and giving the country a 22.1 percent market share.

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Among neighboring Asian nations in the Top 10 producers, Pakistan’s shipments rose 67.29 percent to $195 million, slightly below the prior month’s 72.48 percent year-to-date gain. Imports from Vietnam were on par with the prior month with a 40.94 percent increase to $170.54 million, while China’s shipments rose 24.82 percent to $146.38 million, gaining ground on the 20.23 percent year-to-date hike in April.

Imports from Cambodia increased up 38.19 percent in the first five months to a value of $82.81 million, up from a 25.7 percent rise previously, and Sri Lanka saw an 11.34 percent year-to-date gain to $26.14 million, slowing from a 21.26 percent pickup in the prior month, even as the country remains in turmoil.

Mexico led Western Hemisphere suppliers in the period, with imports rising 26.17 percent to $293.67 million. This gave the No. 2 overall producer for U.S. companies a 17.25 percent import market share, as nearshoring continues to become more attractive.

Also from the region, shipments from Nicaragua rose 31.95 percent in the five-month period to $55.83 million, imports from Colombia were up 91.1 percent to $16.93 million and goods arriving from Guatemala rose 61.25 percent to $9.83 million.

As evidence of the nearshoring trend, U.S. imports from the Western Hemisphere increased 30.02 percent year to date through May to a value of $380.79 million. Taken as a group, the region’s market share stood at 22.68 percent, which topped any one country supplying the U.S., OTEXA reported.