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US Apparel Imports Had a Bad December

Total U.S. apparel imports dropped in December, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, resulting in the first annual decline in the category in the past four years.

Apparel imports plunged by 7 percent in the month, to $6.6 billion on a CIF basis, their tenth straight month of year-over-year decline, in stark contrast to total U.S. goods and services imports, which increased by 2.3% in December to $186 billion. Apparel exports rose by 5.4% to almost $127 billion.

The sky-high dollar and recovering economy last year did little to stimulate demand among apparel-weary consumers who took advantage of the lower prices to spend less on clothing. Although most big retailers reported a solid holiday 2016 season, apparel was cited as weaker than usual.

Apparel exports dropped by almost 5 percent in December, to $450 million. Total apparel exports on an FAS dollar basis fell every month in 2016 compared to the same month in 2015.

Total apparel imports were $91.2 billion in 2016, down 5.9% from 2015. Apparel imports fell by 6.8% to $27.5 billion.