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Vietnam Gains, China, Bangladesh Lose Share of U.S. Apparel Imports in April

Vietnam reinforced its position as the up-and-coming supplier of U.S. apparel imports in April, while China, Indonesia and Bangladesh continued to lose steam.

Total apparel imports for the first four months of 2014 increased by 3.2% compared to the same period last year, to almost $25 billion, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, increased by 2.3%, driving up the average cost per SME by almost 1 percent.

Vietnam is enjoying the biggest share gain of U.S. apparel imports so far this year, growing from 10.2% of total apparel imports in 2013 to 11.5% in 2014, a 1.3 percentage point share gain. In April, U.S. apparel imports from Vietnam totaled $686 million, a 16.5% surge over April 2013. Total apparel imports rose by 2.2% on a CIF basis in the month.

Vietnam is exporting more expensive garments to the U.S. than in the past, with its cost per SME up this year by 3.4%. Key categories for Vietnam are: women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, and cotton underwear.

China has suffered the biggest share loss so far in 2014, dropping from 33 percent to 31.9%, a 1.1 percentage point decline. In April, China’s apparel shipments to the U.S. were up flat at $1.8 billion. Units (on a square meter equivalent basis) rose 5 percent, driving the cost per unit considerably lower.

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Key product categories from China in March included women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, manmade fiber hosiery and manmade fiber bras.

Indonesia and Bangladesh continued to jockey for position as the third and fourth largest sources of apparel to the U.S. Indonesia leads on a dollar basis, while Bangladesh ships more SMEs to the U.S. Both countries have lost share in the first four months of this year.

Bangladesh’s exports to the U.S. have declined by almost 1 percent in dollars on a year-to-date basis amid demands by U.S. apparel customers requiring factories there to invest in and improve safety conditions. Apparel imports from Indonesia have plunged by almost 4 percent so far this year, with units down by 1.6% Indonesia’s share fell from 7.6% to 7.1% in the first four months of the year.

India has gained some U.S. apparel import share so far this year. Key categories include men’s and women’s cotton and manmade fiber knit and woven tops.

So far this year the share of U.S. apparel imports enjoyed by CBI and CAFTA-DR countries has been flat, compared to increases by South Asia, OECD and the ASEAN region.