Footwear import growth gained momentum in April, which, combined with March’s gains, have more than compensated for sluggish performance during first two months of 2014.
Vietnam and Italy gained the most share of the U.S. footwear import market in the first four months of the year, with China losing the most.
According to recent data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), footwear imports grew by 6.2% in April compared to the same month last year, bringing the year-to-date total to $8 billion, 2.3% ahead of the same period last year. On a 12-month smoothed basis, footwear imports were up by 2.3% in April.
The average cost for a pair of imported footwear increased by 4.1% in the first four months of the year compared to the same period one year ago, to $9.32, due to increased labor costs and healthy sales at the high end of the market.
Despite losing more than three percentage points of market share so far this year, China remains by far the dominant supplier to the U.S., with a 67 percent share of total footwear imports. The average cost per pair for footwear imported from China through April was $7.70, well below the overall average. Approximately 42 percent of the footwear imported from China is made of leather, with the balance made mostly of synthetic materials. In 2013, footwear imports from China fell 0.8% to $16.6 billion.
Vietnam has gained 1.8 points of market share so far this year, bringing its share of U.S. footwear to 13 percent, a new record. Year-to-date footwear imports from Vietnam have surged by almost 19 percent, to over $1 billion. Unit imports have gained over 14 percent, driving up the average pair cost by almost 4 percent year over year. Last year, footwear imports from Vietnam grew by over 20 percent in dollar terms, to almost $2.9 billion.
Italy supplies the most expensive footwear to the U.S., at an average cost of $68 per pair, up 1.6% over last year for the January to April period. In 2013, the U.S. imported $1.2 billion worth of footwear from Italy, an 8.5% increase over last year. Almost 90 percent of the footwear imported from Italy is made of leather. Italy is now the third largest supplier in dollar terms to the U.S. footwear market, with a more than 5.5% share, underscoring the importance of the luxury business.
Though not yet in the top 10 trading partners, Portugal is rapidly becoming a key supplier of high-end footwear as well, with shipments to the U.S. up 32 percent last year compared to 2012, to $82.3 million. For the first four months of 2013, shoe and boot imports from Portugal, increased by almost 31 percent compared to the same period in 2013, to $31.2 million. The average cost per pair increased by more than 1 percent to $47.
Imports from Indonesia, the fourth largest source of U.S. footwear with a 5 percent share, have fallen by 1 percent for the four months, to $412 million.