Apparel imports from Vietnam enjoyed the most rapid growth of any of the top U.S. trading partners in November, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). So far this year, the country has gained the greatest share of U.S. apparel imports, mostly at the expense of China, which may see its share of U.S. apparel imports fall to under 36 percent for the first time in five years.
Apparel imports have not grown much this year. The value of total apparel imports for the first 11 months of 2014 increased by only 2.5% compared to the same period in 2013, to just over $75.8 billion. Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, increased by 3.1%, driving down the average cost per SME by 0.6%.
The shift away from China has been quite pronounced this year. Rapidly rising wage rates there have spurred many U.S. apparel brands to seek lower cost countries of origin. Vietnam has aggressively expanded its apparel and textile capabilities to attract more customers in the U.S. and Europe. Through November, U.S. apparel imports from Vietnam totaled a record $8.5 billion, up 14.6% over the first 11 months of 2013. In November, imports from Vietnam totaled $658 million.
Vietnam is exporting more expensive garments to the U.S. than in the past, with its cost per SME up by 1.1% so far this year. Key categories for Vietnam are women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, and cotton underwear.
China has suffered the biggest share loss so far in 2014, dropping from 37.4% to 36.6% of total U.S. apparel imports. Imports from China fell 4.5% in November to $2.1 billion. November units from China (on an SME basis) were flat, however.
Key product categories from China include women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, manmade fiber hosiery and manmade fiber bras.
Indonesia edged ahead of Bangladesh as the third largest source of apparel to the U.S. on both a dollar and unit basis. Both countries have lost share so far this year, however.
India has gained a small amount of U.S. apparel import share this year so far and through November represented 4.2% of total U.S. apparel imports. Key categories include men’s and women’s cotton and manmade fiber knit and woven tops.
Mexico, at one time a major source of imported apparel for the U.S., has declined to 4.5% of total dollar imports of apparel. A decade ago it was the second largest source, after China, with an almost 9 percent share.