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China on Track for Second Straight Year of US Apparel Share Loss

An increasing amount of apparel imported into the U.S. is coming from countries other than China, according to the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). If the trend so far this year continues, China will suffer its second year in a row of U.S. apparel market share loss.

The value of total apparel imports for the first nine months of 2014 increased by 2.2% compared to the same period last year, to over $70 billion. Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, increased by 1.9%, driving down the average cost per SME by 0.4%.

Through October, apparel imports from Vietnam totaled a record $7.9 billion, a 15.6% increase over the first 10 months of 2013, representing the fastest growth of any of the U.S.’s top 10 trading partners. In October, imports from Vietnam totaled $936 million.

Vietnam is exporting more expensive garments to the U.S. than in the past, with its cost per SME up by 2.2% so far this year. Key categories for Vietnam are women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, and cotton underwear.

China has suffered the biggest share loss so far in 2014, dropping from 37.5% to 36.6% of total U.S. apparel imports. Imports from China grew by 3.5% in October (below the overall apparel import growth rate of 4.7%) to $3.2 billion. October units from China (on an SME basis) increased by 9 percent, however, resulting in a decline in average garment cost on an SME basis.

Key product categories from China include women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, manmade fiber hosiery and manmade fiber bras.

Indonesia edged ahead of Bangladesh as the third largest source of apparel to the U.S. on a dollar basis, but remains ahead in units. Both countries have lost share so far this year, however.

India has gained a small amount of U.S. apparel import share this year so far. Key categories include men’s and women’s cotton and manmade fiber knit and woven tops.

Sri Lanka, though not yet in the top 10, has increased its dollar apparel exports to the U.S. by 7 percent so far this year.