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US Footwear Imports Up 18.6%

The pace of U.S. footwear imports picked up in April, with every Top 10 supplier posting gains except Cambodia.

U.S. importers brought in 714.08 million pairs of shoes, an 18.6 percent gain, for the year to date through April, compared to the same period in 2020, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). This compared to a 10.5 percent year to date gain in the first quarter.

This coincided with the gradual reopening of the economy and increased retail spending. Shoe store sales dipped 5.2 percent to $3.28 billion in April compared to May, according to the Census Bureau, as spending spurred by federal stimulus checks waned, but was up monumentally over April 2020’s $455 million in sales when retail across the country shuttered over coronavirus mandates.

But the National Retail Federation (NRF) is confident that the second half of 2021 will be upbeat for U.S. retail, thanks to pent-up demand as more consumers get vaccinated and the economy reopens nearly in full.

NRF raised its forecast last week for 2021 retail sales, now anticipating sales to jump between 10.5 percent and 13.5 percent to $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.

Anticipating the uptick, imports from top supplier China rose 22 percent in the four-month period to 418.34 million pairs compared to the 2020 period, picking up from a 13.7 percent increase in the first quarter, according to OTEXA. In 2020, the first two months of the year were on a typical pre-pandemic trajectory, while March and April saw massive shutdowns and lockdown when Covid hit. In 2021, January and February were the onset of vaccine being administered, followed by an economic push in March and April.

Imports from No. 2 producer Vietnam increased 11.9 percent in the year to date to 180.22 pairs compared to 2020, up from a gain of 7.6 percent in the first quarter. China and Vietnam held a combined 83.9 percent footwear import market share.

No. 3 supplier Indonesia saw its shipments rise 24.3 percent to 44.71 million pairs, with next place Cambodia bucked the trend in the period, imports falling 2.2 percent to 19.61 million pairs. The rest of the Top 10 supplier–India, Italy, Mexico, Germany, Brazil and Bangladesh–all posted gains in the four-month period.