Although apparel imports sustained only modest gains in recent months, reversing earlier declines, exports of clothing have enjoyed double-digit growth of late, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. apparel imports rose by 6.1% in November, to $7.2 billion on a CIF basis, while total U.S. goods and services imports increased by 8.2%, to $209 billion.
In October, apparel imports increased by a slightly lower 5 percent, to $8.68 billion.
Apparel exports skyrocketed by 12.4% in November, to $532 million, while total U.S. goods and services exports increased by 9.5%. In October, apparel exports from the U.S. rose y 10.4%. Apparel shipments to Nicaragua have increase by 46.4%, to $144.4 million to comprise more than a quarter of all U.S. apparel exports so far this year.
Year-to-date apparel imports have fallen so far this year compared to last year, according to OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.
Total apparel imports declined by 0.3% on an MFA basis in the first eleven months of the year, to $74.7 billion from $74.9 billion in the same period in 2016.
Among the top 10 U.S. apparel trading partners, only Vietnam, India, Nicaragua and Mexico have grown their apparel shipments to the U.S. this year.
On a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, imports have edged up by 1.1% this year, continuing the trend toward lower-cost goods, despite upward pressure on labor and raw material prices. The average cost per unit of an imported garment fell by 1.4% in the January to November period.
The average cost per SME increased by 11.2% from Mexico, 4.8% for El Salvador, and 1.1% from Honduras, but dropped for all other key trading partners, with the cost per SME from China suffering the biggest drop, down by 5.1%.
Vietnam’s apparel shipments to the U.S. continued to grow, increasing by 7.4% year-to-date to over $10 billion, gaining a percentage point of U.S. apparel import market share so far this year, to 14.4% as of the end of November.
Mexico’s apparel exports to the U.S. increased by 5.8% to $3.1 billion, helped by near-sourcing efforts on the part of many U.S. brands. Mexico’s share of U.S. apparel imports increased by 0.3 percentage points.
Imported apparel from China has fallen by 3.1% so far this year, causing our largest trading partner to lose the most share of U.S. apparel imports in the period, down by a percentage point to 33.7% of the total, or $25.2 billion.
Bangladesh also lost share, with apparel shipments to the U.S. down by 4.3% year-to-date, to 6.3% of total U.S. apparel imports.