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Apparel Imports Slow in January but Vietnam Continues to Gain Ground

U.S. apparel import growth slowed in January, according to data just released by OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

Total apparel imports increased by 1.6% in dollar terms compared to January 2015, to $6.6 billion, trailing December’s increase rate of 4.1%.

On a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, imports rose by 6.5%, indicating a shift toward cheaper goods compared to last year. The cost per SME of apparel imports in January fell by 4.6%.

Though China remains the largest source of U.S. apparel imports, Vietnam and Bangladesh continued to grow their apparel exports to the U.S. at the fastest rates of any of the top 10 trading partners.

Imports from China increased by a higher-than-average 2.7% in the month on a dollar basis. China gained 0.6 percentage points of the dollar value of U.S. apparel imports compared to January 2015, to 36.4% of total U.S. apparel imports. On an SME basis, however, its imports increased by 11.2%, resulting in a cost per unit (SME) drop of 7.7%.

Though a distant number two source of U.S. apparel imports, Vietnam saw its apparel exports to the U.S. grow by 16.5% for the month, giving it a 1.8-percentage-point share gain to 14 percent of total dollar apparel imports in January, or $926 million.

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Imports from Bangladesh jumped by 11.4% to $498 million, moving it ahead of Indonesia as the third largest source of U.S. apparel imports on both a dollar and SME basis, at 7.5% of the total. 

Indonesia’s apparel shipments to the U.S. declined by 4.6% in dollar value compared to January 2015, resulting in a drop in share to 6 percent.

Apparel imports from India increased by 2.6% in the month to $315 million, or 4.7% of the total.

Apparel imports from Mexico, Cambodia, Honduras and Pakistan all declined in the month. 

Other countries enjoying rapid growth in apparel trade with the U.S. in January include Nicaragua, up 15.7% to $99.7 million, Turkey, up 17.4% to $38.6 million, and Kenya, up 17.3% to $36.8 million.