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China Leads 10.5% US Footwear Import Growth in Q1

U.S. footwear imports bounced back in the first quarter, with the top three supplier countries posting year-over-year gains, according to fresh data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

U.S. companies imported 540.07 million pairs of footwear in the year to date through March, an increase of 10.5 percent from the same period in 2020. Imports from top supplier China rose 13.7 percent to 321.12 million pairs, giving it a 59.5 percent market share.

No. 2 producer Vietnam shipped 137.37 million pairs in the period, a gain of 7.6 percent, while imports from Indonesia rose 9.4 percent to 29.56 million pairs. Among the rest of the Top 10 suppliers, imports fell in the first quarter from Cambodia, India and Italy, but rose from Mexico, Germany, Bangladesh and Brazil.

U.S. footwear imports also posted sharp rebounds for the month in volume and value terms from weak year-ago comparisons, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) said in its monthly analysis.

The volume of footwear imports in March rose a year-over-year 82.3 percent–the largest such gain on record, according to FDRA. Imports were led by a 115.3 percent increase from China, reversing 19 straight months of declines.

The value of total footwear imports jumped 68.1 percent from a year earlier, also the biggest improvement on record, FDRA said.

“Duties remain problematic for the industry, reaching $306.1 million in March, by far the highest March on record,” FDRA said. “Average duties per pair reached $1.32 in March, the second-highest March 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.”

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FDRA note that while China remains the nation’s dominant footwear supplier by volume, the value of its shipments were up only 4.4 percent, while imports from second-place Vietnam were up 18.6 percent.

“As a result, Vietnam continues to expand its share of the U.S. footwear import market early in 2021, largely at the expense of China,” FDRA said. “In fact, Vietnam is extending its dominance as the largest supplier of rubber/fabric footwear to the U.S. market again in 2020.”

Footwear imports by category were higher across the board in March, led by a 108 percent rise in imports of children’s footwear. Bootwear imports jumped 105 percent, while shipments of all other key categories posted high double-digit gains against particularly weak year-ago comps, FDRA noted.

“Looking ahead, as consumer demand recovers from the pandemic and consumers gradually return to school and work, we expect footwear shipments will enjoy continued, if slower, growth in coming months, allowing a pronounced recovery in 2021 to try to offset last year’s record collapse in footwear imports,” FDRA added.