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Apparel Import Growth Accelerates in June

U.S. apparel imports hit a new high for the month of June, according to Commerce Department data released last week.

Total apparel imports increased in June by 8.1% year-over-year, to $8.37 billion on a CIF basis, bringing total apparel imports for the first half of the year to a record $44.7 billion (CIF), up 4.6% over the first six months of 2014.

Given that retail apparel sales are growing at less than 2 percent this year, the data indicate strongly that imports continue to gain share from domestically-produced goods.

The increase greatly outpaced that of overall U.S. imports in the month, which fell by 0.7% to $198 billion, pressured by big declines in oil prices and a steep drop in the value of manufactured and consumer goods, including machinery and industrial supplies.

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On a 12-month smoothed basis, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth was 4.2% in June, ahead of May’s increase and the biggest monthly jump in three-and-a-half years.

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China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India are the top five sources of U.S. imported apparel so far this year, though Mexico has seen its apparel exports to the U.S. drop in the first half of the year compared to 2014.

Apparel exports continued to outperform the total export market as well, increasing by 5.4% compared to last June, to over $500 million, despite a 5.5% plunge in overall exports of goods and services. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel exports increased by 4.4%.

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Canada is the biggest importer of U.S. apparel so far this year, comprising almost one-third of exports, followed by Mexico, the UK, Japan and El Salvador. U.S. apparel exports to Mexico have increased by 40 percent so far in 2015, to a year-to-date total of $627 million, or 21 percent of total U.S. apparel exports.

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