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Apparel Imports Drop for Second Consecutive Month

U.S. apparel imports fell in July for the second straight month, once again swimming against the tide of overall imports, which increased by more than 5 percent in the month.

Stubborn price deflation and shifting consumer tastes in favor of experiences like travel and dining over shopping, have been pressuring demand despite healthy job growth and strong economic indicators.

Total apparel imports dropped by 4.1% in the month to $8.5 billion on a CIF basis,, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, while total U.S. goods and services imports increased by 5.3%, to $193.6 billion. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports fell by 2.9%, tied with last month for the smallest drop in 14 months.

Apparel exports dropped 5 percent to $450 million. Total U.S. goods and services exports rose by 4.9%.

On a year-to-date basis, apparel imports have fallen compared to last year, according to OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

Total apparel imports declined by 2.9% on an MFA basis in the first seven months of 2017, to almost $45 billion from $45.8 billion in the same period in 2016.

Among the top 10 U.S. apparel trading partners, only Vietnam, India, Nicaragua and Mexico have grown their apparel shipments to the U.S.

On a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, imports have edged up by 1.4% this year, continuing the overall tendency toward cheaper goods, despite upward pressure on labor and raw material costs. The average cost per unit of an imported garment fell by 3.2% in the January through July period.

The average cost per SME increased by 11.7% from Mexico, and rose 3.2% for El Salvador, but dropped for all other key trading partners, with the cost per SME from China suffering the biggest drop, down by 6.8%.

Continuing to make headway despite the failure of TPP, Vietnam’s apparel shipments to the U.S. grew by 6.2% to $6.5 billion in the period, gaining over a percentage of U.S. apparel import market share so far this year.

China has lost the most share of U.S. apparel imports in the period, down 0.8 percentage points to 31.8%.

Bangladesh also lost share, with apparel shipments to the U.S. down by 5.9% year-to-date, to 6.8% of total U.S. apparel imports.