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Footwear Duties Up and Imports Down in January, as the Beat Goes On

For U.S. footwear imports in January, The Who might have sung, “Here’s the new year, same as the old year.”

That’s because the flight from China seen in 2019 continued into 2020, as did the continued rise of Vietnam, Cambodia and India as footwear suppliers. So, too, was the falloff in overall imports, which declined 2.7 percent in 2019 in value terms–lower for the fifth straight month–and fell 11.6 percent in January compared to a year earlier to $2.2 billion.

Shipments into the U.S. from China were down 22.9 percent in January year to year to $1 billion, amid sourcing shifts over high tariffs, factory shutdowns at the end of the month due to Lunar New Year and supply chain disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization just finally labelled a pandemic. This gave China a 45.5 percent import market share in January compared to 48.1 percent share for 2019.

Imports from Vietnam jumped 9.8 percent in value to $680.09 million and a 30.9 percent market share. In 2019, Vietnam’s market share was 26.6 percent.

Among the next group of top suppliers, gains were posted in January by Cambodia and India, with declines from Indonesia and Italy, where the COVID-19 virus began to be felt during the month.

The volume of footwear reaching U.S. shores during the first month of 2020 also sank, tumbling a year-over-year 15.7 percent, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) noted in its monthly analysis. FDRA said this was the fifth straight month of volume declines and the biggest tumble in nearly four years, with a 23.8 percent drop in shipments from China somewhat offset by a 6.2 percent gain from Vietnam.

“Duties remain problematic for the industry, reaching $326.1 million in January, by far the biggest January on record,” FDRA said. “Trump duties applied against footwear from China are the key culprit behind the jump in duties the last several months.”

FDRA expects full-year average duties per pair from the world could climb to a record high of $1.58 in 2020, up some 16 percent from last year.

Athletic footwear imports fell 1.8 percent in January from a year earlier and the smallest January in four years, FDRA noted. Bootwear imports rebounded modestly in January as shipments from China, Vietnam and Indonesia all rose.