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China, Bangladesh Led November US Apparel Imports Surge

As retailers rushed to get goods in for the holidays and ports cleared backlogged shipments, U.S. apparel imports surged 25.2 percent to 2.51 billion square meter equivalents (SME) in November compared to the same month in 2020, according to data released Thursday by the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

This followed a more modest 13.6 percent rise in year-over-year apparel imports in October. For the year-to-date through November, apparel imports rose 26.9 percent to 26.96 billion SME from the year-earlier period, just below the 27.5 percent gain to 24.45 billion SME reported in October, according to OTEXA.

Top supplier China powered ahead despite ongoing tariffs and political strife with the U.S., with year-over year imports pulling ahead 33.7 percent to 1.04 billion SME after a 14.1 percent rise in October. For the year to date, shipments from China stayed on pace for the year with a 30.75 percent rise to 10.2 billion SME.

On the other hand, apparel imports from No. 2 producer Vietnam fell 10 percent in the month to 282.05 million SME, continuing a wobbly pattern in the last few months following Covid-related factory closures. For the 11 months, shipments from Vietnam were up 15.34 percent to 4.03 billion SME.

No. 3 supplier Bangladesh took up the slack, with its apparel imports jumping 59 percent year over year in November to 227.91 million SME. Year to date, Bangladesh shipments coming through U.S. ports increased 34.37 percent to 2.33 billion SME.

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Imports from Cambodia showed muted growth, rising 7.4 percent to 97.7 million SME for the month following a 22.6 percent gain in October. For the year to date, Cambodian imports increased 11.79 percent to 1.16 billion SME.

The rest of the Top 10 Asian pack saw substantial increases in November. Imports from India were up 35.1 percent to 108.72 million SME, shipments from Indonesia rose 38.1 percent to 99.74 million SME and imports from Pakistan gained 32.8 percent to 86.71 million SME. For the year to date, India’s imports were up 39.91 percent to 1.17 billion SME, Indonesia’s climbed 17.89 percent to 1.02 billion SME and Pakistan’s surged 43.15 percent to 809 million SME.

Rounding out the Top 10 supplier nations were Western Hemisphere countries Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador.

Benefitting from the nearshoring trend and companies looking for duty-free options, imports from Mexico rose 18.7 percent for the month to 67.69 million SME and were up 22.49 percent year to date to 767 million SME. Shipments from Honduras increased 38.4 percent to 76.68 million SME for the month and were up 29.3 percent for the year to date, while imports from El Salvador rose 19.4 percent year over year in November and 39.67 percent year to date to 598 million SME.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the U.S. trade deficit rose to $80.2 billion in November, up $13 billion from $67.2 billion in October. This reflected an increase in the goods deficit of $15.1 billion to $99 billion and a gain in the services surplus of $2.1 billion to $18.8 billion.