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US Footwear Imports Decline Runs On, With China’s Shipments Down 40.2 Percent

U.S. footwear imports showed little sign of abating their severe descent in August, falling 27.5 percent in value to $12.68 billion for the first eight months of 2020 from $17.41 billion a year earlier, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

This rate of decline was slightly better than the 28.4 percent year-to-date falloff through July compared to the same period in 2019. Executives and industry associations have cited the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic that forced widespread store closures and unemployment, leaving consumers with less disposable income, as the primary cause of the decreases. Retailers and brands have also said they are clearing through inventories left from the demand decline.

The decrease in footwear imports was widespread, with only Cambodia and Germany posting increases in the period among the Top 10 suppliers, according to OTEXA data. Footwear imports from No. 5 supplier Cambodia increased 13.2 percent in the eight-month period to $324.18 million, while Germany’s shipments were up 3.2 percent to $98 million.

China continued to feel the pinch the most, with imports to the U.S. falling 40.2 percent to $5.13 billion year to date through August. This was only a slight slowdown in the rate of descent from the 41.4 percent year to date through July.

No. 2 supplier Vietnam saw its shipments to the U.S level off somewhat, with a 7.5 percent year-to-date decrease in August to $4.2 billion compared to an 8.6 percent decline the prior month. China and Vietnam accounted for 73.5 percent of all U.S. footwear imports.

The rest of the Top 10 supplier nations–Indonesia, Italy, India, Mexico, Spain and Bangladesh–all registered declines in the eight months through August. The only two countries posting import increases were Myanmar, up 31.5 percent to $53.54 million, and Croatia, increasing 37 percent to $8.73 million.

For the month, U.S. footwear imports fell sharply in volume and value terms to the lowest August in 19 years, according to analysis from the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA), citing the combined impact from the coronavirus and continued surges in duty costs.

The volume of footwear imported in the August fell 20.3 percent from a year earlier. FDRA said it was the 12th  consecutive month of declines and the eighth straight double-digit percentage drop. A 24.6 percent decline in shipments from China outpaced a 6.5 percent drop from Vietnam, while imports from the rest of the world were down 18.4 percent.

The value of total footwear imports also dropped 19.1 percent in August from a year earlier, also lower for the 12th straight month and the eighth consecutive double-digit percent decline.

“Duties remain problematic for the industry, reaching $259.4 million in August,” FDRA said. “Trump duties applied against footwear from China are the key culprit behind the jump in duties per pair the last several months. Indeed, duties per pair from China jumped 17.1 percent in August, the 12th straight month of gains. Accordingly, FDRA expects full-year average duties per pair from the world could climb to a record high of $1.60 in 2020, up some 19 percent from last year.”

Footwear imports by category were also broadly lower in the month, according to FDRA analysis. Imports of women’s footwear nosedived a year-over-year 40.9 percent to the lowest August volume in more than 25 years. Men’s imports sank 34.7 percent to the lowest August since 2009, as shipments from China, Vietnam, and Indonesia all retreated sharply.

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