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US Jeans Imports Down 35%, as Inventory Belts Tighten

Despite a slight uptick in July, U.S. imports of blue denim apparel–97 percent of which are jeans–were down 35.26 percent to $1.08 billion in the first seven months of 2020 compared to a 37.82 percent decline in the first half, according to new data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Importers have spent most of this period in the throes of an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most denim brands and retailers have said they have focused on working off inventory stuck in warehouses and stores, while curtailing import orders.

Guess Inc. CEO Carlos Alberini said in reporting second-quarter results that the company focused on “optimizing inventory management,” ending the period with inventories down 13 percent compared to last year.

PVH Corp., owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger Jeans, said it continues to tightly manage its inventory, which decreased 12 percent as of the end of the second quarter from the prior-year period. As of the end of fiscal 2020, the company is projecting to carry approximately $125 million of basic inventory into Spring 2021, which is a reduction compared to the prior projection of approximately $250 million.

The result has been a major decline in imports from top producing countries, with every Top 10 supplier except Vietnam and Cambodia registering decreases in year-to-date shipments. The United States’ No. 1 supplier, Mexico, saw its jeans imports fall 53.04 percent in the period to a value of $227.09 million.

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China, now the No. 3 supplier after falling precipitously over the past couple of years during the tariff-fueled U.S.-China trade war and continuing to fall after it was the first country to close factories when the pandemic began there, saw imports plummet 63.23 percent in the period to $169.82 million, OTEXA reported.

Second-place Bangladesh, which has suffered from cancelled orders, fared a bit better, as imports fell 16.98 percent to $254.28 million in the year through July. Rounding out the top four suppliers that combine for a 62 percent import market share was Vietnam, which posted a 0.14 percent increase in the period to $192.72 million.

Among the second-tier suppliers that each account for single-digit jeans market, Cambodia was by far the winner. Imports from the Southeast Asian burgeoning production player rose 30.41 percent year to date to $79.62 million.

The rest of the key manufacturing countries saw major declines in imports during the seven-month period. Pakistan’s fell 21.42 percent to $116.53 million, Egypt’s declined 34.16 percent to $63.25 million, Nicaragua’s dropped 32.1 percent to $46.02 million, Sri Lanka’s were off 24.28 percent to 23.65 million and Indonesia’s decreased 41.81 percent to $23.41 million.

Only three countries, all from Africa, posted increases in shipments to the U.S. in the period from the third tier of suppliers. Imports from Madagascar rose 27.28 percent to $17.59 million, shipments from Ethiopia increased 16.55 percent to $11.03 million and imports from Tanzania were up 23.92 percent to $8.61 million.