U.S. apparel imports soared to record highs in July, according to Commerce Department data released last week. Total apparel imports were $9.7 billion on a CIF basis, a 5 percent increase over July 2014.
With retail apparel sales growing at less than 2 percent this year, the data represent a clean indication that imports continue to gain share from domestically-produced goods despite the misconception that Made in USA is a growing and influential trend.
The increase greatly outpaced that of overall U.S. imports in the month, which fell by 5.3% to $195 billion despite the purchasing power of the stronger U.S. dollar. Total imports were pressured by big declines in oil prices and a drop in the imported value of manufactured and consumer goods, including pharmaceuticals and personal electronics. These decreases were partially offset by an increase in travel service imports.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth was 4.6% in July, the biggest monthly jump in three-and-a-half years.
China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India are the top five sources of U.S. imported apparel so far this year, as Mexico continues to experience a drop in apparel exports to the U.S. drop this year.
Apparel exports continued to outperform the total export market as well, increasing by 2.5% compared to last July, to $524 million, despite a 7.2% plunge in overall exports of goods and services. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel exports increased by 4 percent, their smallest monthly increase in over a year.