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US Footwear Imports From China Slide 26% in February—and That’s Just the Beginning

Hit by the one-two punch of a lingering trade dispute and the growing impact of coronavirus on the supply chain, U.S. footwear imports were down considerably in year-to-date and monthly comparisons in February.

Footwear imports into the U.S. fell 12.8 percent in January and February compared to the same time last year to a value of $4.02 billion, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). The volume of footwear reaching U.S. ports in February tumbled 20.8 percent compared to a year earlier–its largest drop in more than four years, according to an analysis by the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA), which also noted it was the sixth straight month of volume and value declines in footwear imports.

With the pandemic shutting down stores across the U.S., imports for March and April are likely to be down substantially.

Imports from China were particularly hard hit, as factory closures at the end of January due to the Lunar New Year were followed by shutdowns from COVID-19. They declined 28 percent year to date through February to a value of $1.74 billion, OTEXA reported. For the month, imports from China fell 26 percent to $740 million.

Imports from No. 2 supplier Vietnam declined 17.6 percent to a value of $560 million in February compared to January. For the year to date, Vietnam’s shipments were still up 9.68 percent to $1.24 billion.

China’s market share in the year-to-date period fell to 43.3 percent in February compared to 45.5 percent in January. Vietnam’s market share stayed flat at 30.8 percent in February.

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Among the Top Five suppliers, imports from Italy rose 4.6 percent in value to $261.47 million and Cambodia’s increased 34.3 percent to $105.75 million, while shipments from Indonesia fell 7.8 percent to $267.66 million.

FDRA said “duties remain problematic for the industry,” reaching $247.8 million in February, up for the 12th straight month. Duties imposed by the Trump administration against footwear from China “are the key culprit behind the jump in duties the last several months,” the organization said.

While average duties per pair from the rest of the world shrank 2.3 percent in February from a year earlier, duties per pair from China surged 44.2 percent.

“Accordingly, 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,” the group said.

Athletic footwear imports continued slide, falling 11 percent as shipments from largest-supplier China fell to the lowest February in more than a decade. Bootwear imports sank 12.7 percent to the lowest February in eight years, as shipments from China, Vietnam and Indonesia all retreated, FDRA noted.

“On balance, given the broad-based February losses, lingering Trump tariffs and coronavirus concerns on both sides of the Pacific, we maintain our view that full-year shipments will retreat in 2020…while duties will surge to a record this year of an estimated $3.5 billion,” FDRA said.