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US Jeans Imports Climb 9% on ‘Pent-Up Demand’

Rivet’s 2021 winter issue has dropped! This in-depth issue examines the steps the global denim industry is taking to minimize its impact on the environment, from implementing zero waste production and design processes to establishing greenhouse gas emissions goals aligned with the Paris Agreement.

While not reaching the 25 percent year-to-date gains of the overall apparel sector, U.S. jeans imports rose 9.42 percent in the first four months of the year compared to the same period in 2020 to reach a value of $886.15 million, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Comparisons are influenced by Covid’s economic impact, with March and April of this year part of the opening up of the economy, while the same time last year was the beginning of widespread shutdowns as the virus spread. On the other hand, January and February 2020 had normal consumer and retail patterns, while those months in 2021 still featured the early days of vaccinations and continuing slow demand.

“The U.S. is clearly ahead of the curve, and the consumer is behaving strongly, exhibiting signs of a response to pent-up demand, being much more comfortable going out and shopping in stores, and very willing to spend on apparel and accessories,” Guess Inc. CEO Carlos Alberini said in discussing first quarter results.

Despite the demand and sales upswing, jeans brands are watching inventory levels conservatively and trying not to imports more than sales patterns indicate. In reporting its standing in the first quarter, PVH Corp. said it continues to tightly manage its inventory, which decreased 7 percent at quarter’s end.

With those factors at play, six of the Top 10 suppliers of blue denim apparel saw increases in their shipments to the U.S., while four posted declines.

Jeans imports from leading supplier Bangladesh rose 10.02 percent in the four-month period to a value $164.27 million, OTEXA reported. It was joined in the push by Asian neighbors China, with an increase of 23.68 percent to 92.03 million; Pakistan, up 12.07 percent to $88.12 million, and Cambodia, gaining 5.61 percent to $50.54 million.

The Western Hemisphere was represented in the surge by No. 2 production source Mexico, with its imports to the U.S. increasing 25.07 percent to $180.18 million in the period, and Nicaragua, rising 26.41 percent to $32.59 million. Imports from Turkey increased 62.27 percent to $18.67 million.

Top 10 suppliers losing ground in the four-month period were Vietnam, down 2.86 percent to $97.47 million; Egypt, dropping 21.91 percent to $31.7 million, and Sri Lanka, with a 7.47 percent decline to $17.08 million.