Stagnant consumer demand for apparel and persistent price deflation at troubled brick-and-mortar retailers weighed heavily on demand even amid reduced fears of a cross-border tax on imports from Asia.
Continued declines in store traffic and seemingly weekly new store closure announcements are causing many stores to rein in inventory. Asian factories are reporting that U.S. buyers are placing smaller, more frequent orders with shorter lead times requested.
Total apparel imports dropped by 3.4% in the month to $7.5 billion on a CIF basis,, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau, while total U.S. goods and services imports increased by 4.8%, to $199.9 billion. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports fell by 2.9%, their smallest drop in 13 months.
Apparel exports dropped 5.6% to $462 million. Total U.S. goods and services exports rose by 6.1%.
Apparel imports were lower in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year, according to OTEXA, the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel.
Total apparel imports declined by 1.9% on an MFA basis in the first six months of 2017, to $37.2 billion from almost $38 billion in the same period in 2016.
Among the top 10 U.S. apparel trading partners, only Vietnam, Nicaragua and Mexico have grown their apparel shipments to the U.S.
On a square meter equivalent (SME) basis, imports have edged up by 1.7% this year, continuing the overall tendency toward cheaper goods, despite upward pressure on labor and raw material costs. The average cost per unit of an imported garment fell by 3.5% in the first half of the year.
The average cost per SME increased by 12.4% from Mexico, and rose 2.4% for El Salvador, but dropped for all other key trading partners, with the cost per SME from China suffering the biggest drop, down by 7.4% percent.
Continuing to make headway despite the failure of TPP, Vietnam’s apparel shipments to the U.S. grew by 5.5% to $5.4 billion in the period, gaining a percentage of U.S. apparel import market share.
China has lost the most share of U.S. apparel imports in the period, down 0.6 percentage points to 30.9%.
Bangladesh also lost share, with apparel shipments to the U.S. down by 5.5% in the first six months of 2017, to 6.9% of total U.S. apparel imports.