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US Apparel Imports Slow in April; China Loses Share

U.S. apparel import growth slowed to a near halt in April after surging in March following the end of the West Coast ports slowdown.

Total U.S. apparel imports (MFA) were flat in the month on both a dollar and square meter equivalent (SME), basis, bringing the year-to-date import increases in the two measures to 3 percent and 4.9%, respectively, according to data just released by OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.

China lost some of the share it had regained in recent months from Vietnam, Bangladesh and India. Total apparel imports from China fell by 12 percent in April on both a dollar and square meter equivalent basis, to $1.56 billion and 570 MM SMEs, respectively. So far this year, imports from China have grown by 1.1% in dollars, slower than total apparel imports.

Apparel imports from Vietnam increased by 16.5% in the month to $799 million, making it the number two source of U.S. apparel imports, and giving the country a 1.1-percentage-point share gain so far this year to 12.6% of total dollar imports of apparel. For the year-to-date, dollar imports from Vietnam are up by 3 percent.

Apparel imports from India grew by 11 percent to $374 million, bringing the year-to-date total to over $1.4 billion dollars.

Imports from Bangladesh have grown by 7 percent so far in 2015, to $1.8 billion, a nice swing from the 2.3% decline in 2014.

Indonesia’s apparel shipments to the U.S. have declined by almost 3 percent in the first three months of 2015, resulting in a 0.4% share loss, as the country tries to grapple with infrastructure deficiencies and labor issues.

Other countries are also appearing on U.S. brands’ radar as smaller developing nations begin to build apparel manufacturing capabilities. The share of these countries, noted under “rest of world” in the chart below, have seen double-digit growth so far this year, and include Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Jordan and Kenya.

Imports from Haiti have risen by more than 13 percent in 2015 to $269 million as the apparel industry there begins to develop.

Imports from Burma (Myanmar) have grown by 123 percent in the first four months of this year, to more than $8 million. Though concerns over wage disputes and safety compliance are keeping many U.S. brands away, the low wages and expanding cut-and-sew capabilities are proving irresistible to others.