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Trade War Reshuffles Footwear Sourcing Landscape Amid Dramatic First-Half Shifts

The first half of 2019 saw a distinct redistribution of footwear sourcing for U.S. brands and retailers.

A key component was clearly the U.S-China trade war and the constant specter of tariffs hanging over the sourcing landscape. This caused a steady march out of top supplier China and into mostly other Asian producers, notably for athletic footwear, while Italy and Brazil, known for their better leather and fabric shoes, also posted gains in the period.

China was the only one of the top five suppliers in value terms to register a decline in its footwear shipments to the U.S. in the six months through June, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Footwear imports from China fell 8.1 percent to a value of $6.03 billion in the first half of 2019, according to OTEXA. This left China with a 48.2 percent value market share compared to a 53 percent share for 2018. In volume, China held a 65.3 percent market share in the first half compared to a 69.7 percent share in 2018.

No. 2 supplier Vietnam continued its rise in the period, as its footwear imports to the U.S. climbed 10.9 percent to $3.35 billion. This gave Vietnam a value market share of 26.8 percent, ascending from a 23.5 percent share of U.S. imports in 2018.

Rounding out the top five suppliers, Indonesia’s imports rose 8.2 percent to $884.18 million, shipments from Italy were up 3.4 percent to $764.45 million and imports from India advanced 8.7 percent to $216.28 million.

The second tier of footwear suppliers reflected a shuffling of the deck for industry sourcing. Imports from Cambodia, Brazil and the Dominic Republic increased, while shipments from Mexico and Spain declined.

The value of overall footwear imports into the U.S. were essentially flat at $12.51 billion in the first half compared to the same period a year earlier. But it was a different story in volume, as imports in the category fell 7.1 percent to 1.18 billion pairs compared to the year-ago period.

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In monthly comparisons, U.S. footwear imports posted gains in volume and value in June, according to an analysis from the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA). The volume of footwear reaching U.S. shores rose 3.8 percent year-over-year. A 0.5 percent decline from China partially offset a 10 percent increase from Vietnam and an 11.3 percent gain from Indonesia, according to FDRA, which noted that Vietnamese shipments have been up 37 of the past 38 months.

The value of total footwear imports in June rose 6.8 percent from a year earlier. FDRA noted that with value of imports rising faster than volume, the average landed cost of footwear imports was up 2.9 percent.

Athletic footwear imports rose 1.8 percent in June, as higher shipments from Vietnam and Indonesia offset a double-digit decline from China.  Bootwear imports fell for the first time in 11 months, down 0.5 percent year-over-year, as imports declined from China and Vietnam, according to FDRA.