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Shrinking US Denim Imports Surface Sourcing Winners and Losers

As they continue to work off inventory and wait for consumer demand to increase, U.S. jeans importers have held back on bringing in new goods.

For the year to date through September, U.S. denim apparel imports–97 percent of which are jeans–declined 29.93 percent to a value of $1.98 billion, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). This was a bit less than the 32.19 percent year-to-date decline reported the previous month.

“We continue to leverage our own manufacturing here in the Western Hemisphere to service our large customers with scale and speed,” Scott Baxter, president and CEO of Kontoor Brands, told analysts on a conference call last week to discuss third-quarter financial results. “Our advanced manufacturing capabilities allowed us to aggressively align production with demand and with inventory levels down 20 percent in the quarter, we are well-positioned for the second half of 2020, and even more importantly, for 2021.”

Among the Top 10 suppliers, only Vietnam and Cambodia were able to post increases in shipments in the pandemic-fueled economic environment. Imports from No. 3 supplier Vietnam rose 1.77 percent in the comparative nine months through September to $267.39 million, while Cambodia’s shipments increased 16.63 percent to $99.58 million, OTEXA data revealed.

Imports from top supplier Bangladesh declined 5.57 percent to $395.88 million during the period, while No. 2 Mexico’s shipments were slashed 48.58 percent to $321.98 million.

Epitomizing the dramatic decline was China, which has seen a longer-term decline due to sourcing shifts resulting primarily from companies seeking to reduce risk and tariffs from the trade war with the U.S. Jeans imports from China year to date through September plummeted 57.7 percent to a value of $238.76 million.

Rounding out the rest of the Top 10, Pakistan saw its shipments fall 13.38 percent to $168.85 million during the period and Sri Lanka slumped 14.11 percent to $37.7 million.

African suppliers Egypt and Lesotho’s shipments declined 36.86 percent to $82.48 million and 19.38 million to $35.33 million, respectively. Imports from Nicaragua fell 27.76 percent to $68.04 million.