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US Footwear Imports Stayed Buoyant Through August

U.S. footwear imports stayed on pace in August, increasing 31.5 percent to 1.26 billion pairs year to date compared to 2020, inching up over the 31.3 percent gain through July, according to data released Tuesday by the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Imports from top supplier China stayed on track with a year-to-date 30.5 percent rise in the period to 844.77 million pairs, despite tariffs kept in place by the Biden administration. That’s because “China’s government continues to pour billions of dollars into targeted industries and continues to shape its economy to the will of the state,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said this month.

Despite dire predictions based on news of factory shutdowns, imports from Vietnam increased 29.8 percent year to date through August to 381.91 million pairs, according to OTEXA. This surpassed the 28.6 percent seven-month-period gain through July compared to 2020.

The more likely scenario is that the Vietnam factory shutdowns have yet to be felt in import data. Late last month, Nike downgraded its financial guidance for 2022 solely due to the supply chain impacts, expecting revenues to grow in the mid-single digits, versus the prior guidance of low-double digits. Additionally, Nike expects second-quarter revenue growth to be flat to down low-single digits versus the prior year.

As of Sept. 23, 80 percent of Nike’s footwear factories in Vietnam were closed, Matt Friend, Nike’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in an earnings call.

“Through this week, that means we’ve already lost 10 weeks of production, and that gap will continue until factories are able to reopen and produce product at normal capacity,” Friend said at the time. “This has created a gap to the flow of inventory originally ordered for delivery beginning in mid-October.”

Vietnamese factories were expected to reopen in phases beginning in October and ramp up to full production “over several months,” Friend said.

So far in 2021, China and Vietnam have combined to hold an 83.9 percent imports market share, on par with a month earlier, according to OTEXA. The next five second-tier suppliers–Indonesia, Cambodia, India, Italy and Mexico–all posted notable increases with the exception of Cambodia, which had more modest gains.