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U.S. Footwear Imports Off To A Slow Start In 2014

Footwear import growth seems to be slowing, according to recent data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). After rising slightly in December, and finishing 2013 up by 3.7% to $24.1 billion, footwear imports slipped 0.7% in January compared to the same month last year, to $2.4 billion. The average cost for a pair of imported footwear grew 4.7% in January compared to a year ago, to $9.47.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, January import growth in the category slowed to 1.3%, the lowest rate of increase in almost four years.



Though it lost almost three percentage points of share of the U.S., China remains by far the dominant footwear supplier to the U.S., with an over 69 percent share of total shoe, boot, slipper and sandal imports. The average cost per pair for footwear imported from China in January was $8.04, well below the overall average. Approximately 42 percent of the footwear imported from China in the month was made of leather, with the balance made mostly of synthetic materials. In 2013,  imports from China fell 0.8% to $16.6 billion.

Vietnam, despite gaining almost two points of share between January 2013 and 2014, remains a distant second, at almost 13 percent of the total, but enjoyed an almost 12 percent increase in the dollar amount of footwear shipped to the US this January compared to last. Unit imports grew by 6.3% growth in units, driving up the average pair cost by almost 5 percent year over year. Footwear imports from Vietnam grew by over 20 percent in dollar terms in 2013, to almost $2.9 billion.

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Not surprisingly, Italy supplies the priciest footwear, at $76.32 per pair, up 6.7% over the same month last year. In 2013 the U.S. imported $1.2 billion worth, a 8.5% increase over last year. Almost 87 percent of the footwear imported from Italy in January was made of leather.

Italy is now the third largest supplier in dollar terms to the U.S. footwear market, an indication of just how dominant the high end of the business has become.

Portugal is becoming a more important supplier of high-end footwear, with shipments to the U.S. up 32 percent from 2012 to 2013, to $82.3 million. The average cost of a pair of footwear from Portugal was around $50 last year.

Imports from Indonesia, the fourth largest source of U.S. footwear, fell 8.5% during the month on a dollar basis, the biggest drop of any of the top trading partners, to $115 million. Imports from Spain plunged 21 percent, while dollar imports from Spain declined by only 5 percent.