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US Footwear Imports Down 25%, With Lowest October in 16 Years

The toll of the pandemic and sustained high import duties have contributed to a 25 percent decline in U.S. footwear imports in the first 10 months of the year to a value of $16.35 billion.

The pace of decreases has eased somewhat–from 25.9 percent and 27.5 percent the prior two months, respectively–fueled by a slight uptick in demand leading up to the holiday season, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).

Top supplier China continued to see its shipments fall, down a year-to-date 36.7 percent to $6.73 billion compared to the same period compared in 2019. The next three largest suppliers–Vietnam, Indonesia and Italy–each posted a decline in the 10 months through October year over year. Imports from Vietnam dipped 7.5 percent to $5.32 billion, shipments from Indonesia fell 19.7 percent to a value of $1.14 billion, and imports from Italy also decreased 19.7 percent to $1.02 billion.

Cambodia was the only Top 10 supplier to show an increase in the period, with shipments up 7.9 percent to $409.52 million, OTEXA found.

For the month, U.S. footwear imports extended their streak of declines, sinking in volume and value to the lowest October in 16 years, according to analysis from the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA).

The decline was attributed to the combined impact of the coronavirus and continued high duty costs, FDRA said. The volume of footwear reaching U.S. shores in October fell a year-over-year 8.9 percent, dropping for the 14th straight month. Declines 16.9 percent and 36.6 percent in shipments from Vietnam and Indonesia outpaced a smaller 2.4 percent dip from China, while imports from the rest of the world was off 13.6 percent–the eighth straight double-digit decline, according to FDRA.

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The value of total footwear imports fell 16 percent October from a year earlier, also lower for the 14th straight month and the 10th straight double-digit retreat.

“Duties remain problematic for the industry, reaching $245.2 million in October,” FDRA said. “Trump duties applied against footwear from China remain the key culprit behind the jump in duties per pair the last several months. FDRA expects full-year average duties per pair from the world could climb to a record high of $1.49 in 2020, up some 11 percent from last year.”

Footwear imports by select category also were broadly lower in the month.  Imports of athletic footwear led to the downside, plummeting a year-over-year 29.3 percent to the lowest October volume in nine years. Men’s imports sank 13.1 percent to the lowest October since 1998, as shipments from China and Indonesia both retreated sharply.

“On balance, given the broad-based October losses, lingering Trump tariffs and coronavirus sapping consumer demand, we maintain our view that full-year shipments will decline sharply in 2020, while duties may sink relatively modestly from last year’s record $3.3 billion,” FDRA added.