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US Footwear Imports in 2018: China Drops Off and Vietnam Steps Up

U.S. footwear imports from China fell for the third straight year in 2018, as the next four suppliers–Vietnam, Indonesia, Italy and Mexico–all saw year-over-year increases, according the full year report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

The value of imports from China last year reached $13.89 billion, a decline of 0.9 percent from the $14.02 billion worth of goods imported in 2017. The falloff in 2018 compared to 2017 was less than the 4.3 percent from 2016 to 2017, and came in the midst of the U.S. China trade war in which tariffs were imposed on a range of goods.

While footwear was largely left out of the melee, the concern that the category would get caught in the fray has been cited as a contributing factor for decreases in the category (as well as apparel), as companies look to reduce their risks.

Overall, U.S. footwear imports were up 9.1 percent to $26.22 billion last year, according to OTEXA, following a slight decline the prior year. China’s market share fell to 53 percent in 2018 from 56 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, imports from No. 2 supplier Vietnam rose 13.8 percent to a value of $6.16 billion last year to hold a 23.5 percent market share, meaning more than 76 percent of all footwear imported into the U.S. in 2018 came from two countries. December marked 31 out of the last 32 months that footwear imports from Vietnam have increased, according to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA).

The next two most significant suppliers were Indonesia and Italy. Indonesia’s footwear shipments to the U.S. posted gains of 4.7 percent to $1.55 billion and Italy’s climbed 13.2 percent to $1.54 billion. Mexico’s shipments jumped 23.9 percent for the year to $462.12 million.

Among other gainers shipping more than $100 million worth of footwear in 2018 were Cambodia, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Bangladesh. Others losing market share include India, The Dominican Republic, Brazil and Thailand.