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U.S. Apparel Import Pace Cools in September

U.S. apparel import growth slowed a bit in September, according to data released last week by OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, bringing the year-to-date total to $64.8 billion (MFA), 4.7% higher than the year-ago period and down from August’s 5 percent increase. On a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, imports rose by 6.8%.

Vietnam, India and Bangladesh continued to benefit most, growing their imports at faster-than-average rates so far this year.

Apparel imports from China fell by 1.3% in the month on a dollar basis and increased by 1.5% on an SME basis, resulting in a year-to-date increase of 3.8% in dollars and 7.2% in SMEs. So far this year, China’s share of the dollar value of U.S. apparel imports has dropped by only 0.3% compared to last year, to 35.9%, preserving its position as the largest apparel trading partner of the U.S. by far.

Apparel imports from Vietnam increased in September by 10 percent year-over-year, to just over $1 billion dollars for the third month in a row. Though the number two source of U.S. apparel imports, Vietnam has been the fastest growing source of any top trading partner, up 15 percent so far in 2015, giving it a 1.2-percentage-point share gain so far this year to 12.4% of total dollar imports of apparel, or over $8 billion. Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Vietnam’s continued rapid growth as a source of imported U.S. apparel will no doubt continue.

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Among the most important categories of apparel coming from Vietnam are men’s and women’s cotton knit tops, women’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit and woven tops and women’s manmade fiber pants.

After being virtually flat in August, imports from Bangladesh skyrocketed by 33.6% in September to $465 million, increasing the country’s year-to-date increase to 9.7%, putting it clearly in position as the third largest source of U.S. apparel imports, at 6.4% of the year-to-date total. 

Cotton apparel comprises almost 80 percent of the imports from Bangladesh. Men’s and boy’s cotton pants are the biggest category, at around one-third of the total, followed by men’s woven shirts, women’s pants, women’s dresses, women’s and girls’ knit tops, and underwear.

Key manmade fiber apparel categories from Bangladesh include men’s pants, knit tops and outerwear.

Apparel imports from India grew by 4.7% to $266 million in the month, bringing the year-to-date total to over $2.8 billion dollars, up 8.6% compared to the same period in 2014. India’s share of U.S. apparel has risen to 4.4% so far this year.

Key growth categories imported from India so far this year are men’s cotton knitted and woven shirts, men’s cotton underwear, men’s and boys’ pants, and women’s manmade fiber dresses and blouses.

Although not among the top 10 trading partners, Sri Lanka has seen its apparel exports to the U.S. grow by more than 16 percent so far this year, to $1.5 billion.

Apparel imports from Myanmar have increased by more than 150 percent, to $27 million, and from Madagascar 144 percent to almost $33 million.ApparelPie