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US Footwear Imports Climbed Back a Bit in February

While U.S. footwear imports bounced back a bit in February compared to a year earlier, year-to-date shipments were still down 9.2 percent to a value of $3.65 billion for the first two months of the year compared to the same period in 2020, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

The rate of decline was smaller than January, when imports were down 17.7 percent. Both comparisons should take into account that in the first two months of 2020, importers were still dealing with more normal supply and demand issues since the Covid pandemic had not year taken hold in the United States and only in late February did Chinese factories start to feel the effects of the virus.

Imports from still-top-supplier China year to date through February fell 20.1 percent to $1.39 billion, while Vietnam, the No. 2 production choice for U.S. brands and retailers, saw its imports into the U.S. increase 0.8 percent to $1.25 billion, according to OTEXA. Imports from third-place supplier Italy rose 3.9 percent to $271.98 million, as No. 4 Indonesia saw its shipments drop 5.8 percent to $252.23 million.

Among the next tier of supplier nations, gains were seen by Germany, Mexico, Bangladesh and Spain, while Cambodia and India posted losses.

For the month, U.S. footwear imports saw modest increases in volume and value terms, according to analysis from the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA). The volume of footwear imports in February rose a year-over-year 0.8 percent, following 17 straight months of declines. FDRA noted that gains of 4.8 percent from Vietnam and 6.1 percent from *Indonesia offset a 0.2 percent decline from China, the 19th straight monthly decline.

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The value of total footwear imports rose 1.6 percent from a year earlier, also ending 17 straight months of declines.

Duties remain problematic for the industry, reaching $247.0 million in February, FDRA said. Average duties per pair reached $1.31 in the month, the second-highest February on record.

“Trump duties applied against footwear from China late in 2019 remain a key culprit behind the jump in duties per pair last year and will bear close scrutiny in 2021,” FDRA said.

Looking at footwear imports by select category for the month, shipments of men’s footwear fell a year-over-year 1.9 percent, led by a 26.4 percent decline from China, according to FDRA analysis. Bootwear imports stepped down for the 12th time in the last 13 months, primarily due to a 26.1 percent drop in shipments from China.

“Looking ahead, as consumer demand recovers from the pandemic, we expect shipments will return to growth in coming months, but will not rebound enough in the new year to offset the 2020 collapse, implying imports will remain well below near-term highs reached in 2019,” FDRA added.