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Apparel Imports Recover a bit in March, but Future Uncertain

U.S. apparel imports recovered in March, after a double-digit decline in February, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, but still lagged overall imports as the troubled brick-and-mortar retail environment and multiplying store closure announcements have many large merchants curtailing orders.

Total apparel imports increased by 4.7% in the month, to $6.6 billion on a CIF basis, while total U.S. goods and services imports increased by nearly double that rate, or 9 percent, to $196.6 billion. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports fell by 5 percent.

Apparel exports fell by 4.4% to $495 million. Total U.S. goods and services exports rose by 8.1%.

In the first four months of 2017, 1,800 store closures were announced by companies that focus on apparel, including Macy’s, J.C. Penney, American Apparel, Bebe, Wet Seal and others. Many retail experts predict an acceleration in store closures, which could continue to dampen demand for apparel imports.