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US Apparel Imports Slow in April, but Vietnam Continues to Make Headway

U.S. apparel imports were flat in April, bucking the trend of overall imports as the troubled brick-and-mortar situation, declining store traffic and weekly new store closure announcements continue to causing many merchants to rationalize inventory.

Total apparel imports fell by 0.2% in the month to $6.4 billion on a CIF basis,, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, while total U.S. goods and services imports increased by almost 7 percent, to $187.8 billion. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports fell by 4 percent.

Apparel exports dropped 3.8% to $439 million. Total U.S. goods and services exports rose by 3.7%.



Year-t0-date apparel imports are lower than last year, according to OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel. Total apparel imports declined by 1.7% on an MFA basis in the first four months of 2017, to $24.56 billion from almost $25 billion in the same period in 2016.

Among the top 10 U.S. apparel trading partners, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico have grown their apparel exports to the U.S. the most.

On a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, imports have edged up by 2.2% this year, continuing the overall tendency toward cheaper goods, despite upward pressure on labor and raw material costs. The average cost per unit of an imported garment fell by 3.9%.

The average cost per SME increased by 11.8% from Mexico, but dropped for all other key trading partners, with the cost per SME from China suffering the biggest drop, down almost 8 percent.

Continuing to make headway despite the failure of TPP, Vietnam’s apparel shipments to the U.S. grew by 8.2% to $3.6 billion in the period, gaining 1.3 percentage points of share.

China has lost the most share of U.S. apparel imports in the period, down 0.5 percentage points to 30.3%.

Bangladesh also lost share, with apparel shipments to the U.S. down by 5.9% so far this year, to 7.1% of total U.S. apparel imports.