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Apparel Imports Recover in August, but Show Signs of Slower Growth

After dropping slightly in July, apparel imports–helped by a strong dollar–recovered in August, increasing 1.6% to $9.3 billion on a CIF basis, according to data released late last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

July’s volume was negatively impacted by retailers pushing orders earlier to June for fear of a dock workers stoppage on the West Coast. Union members continued to work as negotiations for a new contract continued, and a tentative agreement was reached in late August.

Apparel imports (CIF basis) have increased by only 2 percent for the first eight months of the year, to a total of $61 billion.


Total imported goods and services gained 1.5% in the month compared to the same month last year, primarily due to an increase in imports of capital goods, consumer goods, and industrial supplies and materials. A rise in travel and transport also helped boost imports.

China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia were the top sources of U.S. apparel in July, with China at $3.3 billion, Vietnam with $908 million, $489 million for Bangladesh, and $431 million for Indonesia. Imports from Vietnam grew 20 percent over June of last year, while those from China fell by 2 percent.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, however, which corrects for volatility of data in a particular month, apparel import growth slowed to 2 percent in August, its slowest monthly rate in over a year, an indication that apparel import growth will be slowing in the coming months.


Apparel exports rose 4 percent to $564 million, on top of impressive 6 percent gains in both June and July, and slightly outpacing overall goods and services export growth of 3.9%. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel exports accelerated by 4.3% in August, even with July.


Canada is the biggest market for U.S. apparel exports, followed by Mexico, the U.K., Japan and Honduras. Apparel exports to El Salvador have grown 15.2% so far this year to $84 million, and to Chile by 13 percent to $73 million. Exports to Germany have grown by 8.5% to $65 million (making it one of the top 10 destinations for U.S. apparel exports), while those to the Netherlands have dropped by 8 percent.