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More Signs of Nearshoring in July Jeans Import Numbers

The growth trajectory of U.S. jeans imports flattened in July, with shipments up 30.31 percent to $1.81 billion in value year to date compared an increase of 32.87 percent in the first six months of 2021, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Similar to overall apparel sourcing patterns, a slowdown in production of blue denim apparel in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia was evident in OTEXA data released Thursday. At the same time, continued strength of top jeans suppliers Bangladesh and Pakistan showed through, while the Western Hemisphere resurgence was also seen by significant increases in countries such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia and Guatemala.

Imports from Vietnam, which has had Covid-related factory closures, had increased 5.22 percent in the first half, but fell back to a 4.09 percent year-to-date gain in July for a value of $199.76 million. Shipments from Cambodia increased a moderate 5.83 percent to $84.26 percent in the period, while Indonesia’s shipments declined 23.81 percent to $17.84 million.

Among the top Asian suppliers, No.1 producer Bangladesh’s imports increased 42.82 percent year to date through July to $362.38 million, while shipments from China were up 13.28 percent to $192.49 million and imports from Pakistan rose 62.16 percent in the period to $188.94 million.

In the Western Hemisphere, where a nearshoring strategy form U.S. retailers and brands seems to be taking hold, imports from second place supplier Mexico increased 55.42 percent to $352.94 million in the seven months. Shipments from Nicaragua rose 39.54 percent in the period to $64.21 million, as Colombia’s imports increased 3.97 percent to $14.44 million and Guatemala’s rose 3.84 percent to $11.79 million.

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At last month’s Sourcing at Magic trade show, Patricia Medina, owner of Aztex Trading, said Central and South American suppliers are positioned to take more of the U.S.’ business. The Mexican company has changed its model to better serve a new group of mostly digitally native U.S. brands seeking small production runs and quick replenishment.

“We’ve realized that the smaller customers selling through the Internet actually grew during the pandemic and have more potential than the bigger brands,” she said.

Looking at the larger sourcing scene, Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, told Sourcing Journal recently, “What we’re seeing now is a once-in-a-generation sourcing shift.”

“It’s been playing out for a couple of years and I think it’s going to continue to play out for some time to come,” Lamar said. “It’s going to lead to a global realignment…and factors contributing to it include the China diversification.”

The more diversified jeans sourcing strategy showed in OTEXA’s July report, with notable increases from second-tier suppliers in a range of locales. These include Egypt, Lesotho and Madagascar in Africa, Turkey and Italy in Europe, and Sri Lanka, India and Japan in Asia.