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Shoe Imports Trudging Into Peak Season

U.S. footwear imports rose 21.95 percent in the first nine months of 2022 to 2 billion pairs, data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA) showed. This marks a drop from a 24.8 percent increase a month earlier and from 27.4 percent in the first half of the year.

The slowdown in footwear being brought into the country by retailers and brands for crucial fourth-quarter selling came as companies grapple with high inventory positions and concern over a consumer demand retreat.

Wolverine Worldwide president and CEO Brendan Hoffman said last week that key to fourth-quarter success will be liquidating inventory. At the end of the third quarter, the footwear maker’s inventory came in at $880.9 million, up 113.8 percent compared to a year ago.

“We are facing congestion in our own U.S. distribution centers and inland transportation networks and many wholesale customers are currently dealing with heavier inventories and warehouse constraints,” Hoffman said on a conference call with analysts. “These headwinds have resulted in certain shipping delays that impacted most of our brands.”

Footwear imports from No.1 supplier China stepped up 18.8 percent in the first three quarters of the year to 1.14 billion pairs, according to OTEXA. This was down compared to a 23.8 percent gain in the eight-month period through August.

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It’s unclear whether this week’s meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will prompt the U.S. government to drop tariffs on Chinese goods, including footwear, which along with heightened geopolitical strife has shifted some sourcing strategies to reduce risk factors of producing in the country.

Footwear shipments from No. 2 supplier Vietnam increased 16.8 percent to 489.75 million pairs in the period. For Vietnam, this improved on its 13.9 percent hike a month earlier.

According to OTEXA, China and Vietnam combined for an 81.5 percent U.S. imports market share in the nine-month period, down slightly from an 81.8 percent share in the prior-month period.

Imports from Indonesia, the No. 3 producer for U.S. brands and retailers, jumped 52.7 percent to 149.37 million pairs in the nine months, staying above a 50 percent year-to-date gain for the third straight month.

Rounding out the top five suppliers, shipments rose 40.9 percent to 60.76 million pairs from Cambodia and 49.3 percent to 32.12 million pairs from India.