U.S. imports of footwear skyrocketed in March as the end of the work slowdown at the West Coast docks and strong dollar stimulated demand for product from Asia.
According to Commerce Department data released this week, U.S. footwear imports soared by 40 percent in March compared to the same month last year, to $2.4 billion, compared to a sluggish 1.8% gain in overall goods and services imports in the month despite the continued strength in the U.S. currency, which tends to make imported goods less expensive and therefore more desirable. Late in the month, an agreement was reached between the parties in the West Coast ports work slowdown, and a huge backlog of imported goods finally began entering the U.S., which helped boost March imports.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, footwear import growth was 7.3% in March, its biggest monthly increase in two years.
China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Italy and India are the top sources of U.S. imported footwear so far this year, with Vietnam up by 23 percent to $982 million year to date, and China ahead by 5.5% percent to $4.4 billion. Imports from Italy have been flat so far this year, at $332 million.
Footwear exports continued to outperform the total export market as well, increasing by 8.2% to $79 million. Canada, Japan and South Korea are the biggest export markets for U.S. footwear. On a 12-month smoothed basis, footwear export growth accelerated to 7.6%, its highest increase in three years. Overall exports of goods and services dropped by 6.2% in the month, hurt by the continuing strength of the dollar.
Canada is the biggest market for U.S. footwear exports so far this year, comprising more than one-third of the total, followed by Japan and South Korea.