Despite sluggish consumer demand and a protracted ports slowdown early in the year, U.S. apparel imports increased by 3.8% in 2015, well above 2014’s 2.3% rise, according to the latest Department of Commerce data.
A record $96.7 billion worth of apparel was imported into the U.S. last year, with the biggest portion, 36 percent of the total, coming from China. Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Cambodia rounded out the top five, with 12.4%, 6.3%, 5.8% and 3.1% of total imports, respectively.
Although apparel imports were virtually flat in December at $6.8 billion, they outpaced growth of total goods and services imports, which fell by 7.7% in the month on a year-over-year basis despite the strong purchasing power of the U.S. dollar. The continued drop in oil prices and a significant decline in imports of industrial supplies and equipment put pressure on overall imports.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth was 3.6% in December, down from 4.2% in November.
Apparel exports outperformed the total export market as well, rising by 1.2% compared to last December, to $473 million, while total U.S. exports of goods and services plunged by 10.1%. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel exports dipped by almost 1 percent, a tie with last month for their worst showing since March 2010.