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US Apparel Imports Drop in First Quarter

U.S. apparel imports declined in the first quarter, according to the most recent data from OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, with many retailers curtailing orders after disappointing holiday results that continue to cast a pall over the industry.

For the first three months of 2016, apparel imports fell by 2.1%, to $19.3 billion. Total unit volume on a square meter equivalent (SME) basis rose negligibly.

The decline was driven primarily by an almost 20 percent slowdown in March apparel imports to $4.6 billion, compared to almost $7 billion in March 2015. On an SME basis, imports plunged by over 21 percent in the month, as the continuing shift toward lower-cost goods impacted apparel imports.

Apparel imports from China dropped by an above-average 5.9% in the first three months of 2016. Although China remains the largest source of U.S. apparel, the country has seen its share drop by 130 basis points in the first quarter compared to the year-ago period, to 31.6% of total U.S. apparel imports.

Vietnam, on the other hand, gained 100 basis points of U.S. apparel import market share in the first quarter, to $2.58 billion. At 13.4% of the total, it is the number two source of U.S. apparel imports, as well as the fastest growing of any of the top 10 trading partners in the first quarter.

Imports from Bangladesh grew by 4.3% to $1.45 billion, or 7.5% of the year-to-date total, moving it ahead of Indonesia as the third largest source of U.S. apparel imports on both a dollar and SME basis for the third month in a row.

Indonesia’s apparel shipments to the U.S. slipped by 0.5% in the first quarter, to $1.25 billion, or 6.5% of total year-to-date imports.

Apparel imports from India have increased by 4.4% so far this year to just over a billion dollars, giving India a 5.6% share of total apparel imports.

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

Countries in the ASEAN region have gained 700 basis points of U.S. apparel market share so far this year.

Imports of cotton apparel have fallen by 5.7% to $9.6 billion so far in 2016, while manmade fiber apparel imports have grown by 1.8% to $8.7 billion.

Other countries enjoying rapid growth in apparel trade with the U.S. so far this year include Turkey, up 19 percent to $79 million, Madagascar, up 172 percent to 11 million, and Myanmar, up 95 percent to $7.7 million.