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Vietnam Continues to Grab Share of U.S. Apparel Imports

U.S. apparel import growth picked up in May after slowing to a near halt in April, and Vietnam was the prime beneficiary.

Total U.S. apparel imports (MFA) increased by 4.4% in the month on a dollar basis and by 6.7% on a square meter equivalent (SME), basis, according to data just released by OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, bringing the year-to-date import increases in the two measures to 3.3% and 5.2%, respectively.

Total apparel imports from China rose by 0.6% in May on a dollar basis and 5.9% on an SME basis as the country shipped cheaper apparel to the U.S. So far this year, imports from China have grown by 1 percent in dollars, one-quarter the pace of total apparel imports, causing China’s share of U.S. apparel imports to drop to 31.4% from 32.1% in the year-ago period, the biggest loss of any major trading partner.

Apparel imports from Vietnam increased in May by 18.4% year-over-year to $786 million, making it the number two source of U.S. apparel imports, and giving the country a 1.2-percentage-point share gain so far this year to 12.7% of total dollar imports of apparel. For the year-to-date, dollar imports from Vietnam are up by 14.1%. With passing of TPP looking more likely than ever, though still not a sure thing, Vietnam’s position as a source might become stronger still.

Apparel imports from India grew by 3.5% to $292 million, bringing the year-to-date total to almost $1.7 billion dollars, up 8.7% compared to the same period in 2014.

Imports from Bangladesh have grown by 7 percent so far in 2015, to $2.2 billion, a big swing from the 2.3% decline in 2014.

Indonesia’s apparel shipments to the U.S. have declined by 1.5% in the first five months of 2015, resulting in a 0.3% 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, Jordan, Haiti and Kenya.

Imports from Burma (Myanmar) have more than doubled in the first five months of 2015, to over $10 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 interesting to others.