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June Imports Surge on Anticipation of West Coast Work Stoppage

After dropping in May, apparel imports surged almost 7 percent in June to $7.7 billion, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Many retailers moved fall orders ahead of schedule in anticipation of a West Coast longshoremen work stoppage. The contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association expired at the end of June, and negotiations have been underway for the past several weeks for a new contract.

Most trade experts feel July apparel imports will be negatively impacted by the June shipping increase. Early reports note that container traffic at Long Beach and other west coast ports was more brisk than expected in July, though no detail on specific product categories has yet been released.


Total imported goods and services gained 6.6% in June compared to the same month last year, primarily due to an increase in imports of capital goods, consumer goods, automotive vehicles and parts, and foods, feeds and beverages. A rise in travel also helped boost imports.

For the first half of 2014, apparel imports have increased by 3.4% from the same period in 2013, to $42.8 billion.

China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia were the top sources of U.S. apparel in the month, at $2.5 billion, $760 million, $373 million, and $372 million, respectively. Imports from Vietnam grew 16.2% over June of last year, while those from China rose by 6.3%.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth accelerated from 2.3% in May to 2.8% in June.


Apparel exports rose 6 percent to $477 million, on top of an impressive 5.2% increase in May, far outpacing overall goods and services export growth of 3.1%. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel exports accelerated by 3.9% in June.

Canada is the biggest market for U.S. apparel exports, followed by Mexico, the U.K., Japan and Honduras. Apparel exports to Australia have grown by 11.5% to $51.5 million so far this year, while those to Germany have grown by 15.3% to $48.9 million (making it one of the top 10 destinations for U.S. apparel exports) and apparel exports to the Netherlands have dropped 8 percent.