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AAFA Releases Twin Reports on Apparel and Footwear for 2012

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Reconfirming its status not only as a major trade association and lobbying group but also as a leading source of industry information, the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) just released twin reports “serving as snapshots of the U.S. apparel and footwear industry market trends for 2012.”

The two sprawling studies, ApparelStats 2013 and ShoeStats 2013, each replete with an impressive storehouse of data, cover both the supply and demand side of apparel and footwear, detailing a year of production and consumption, manufacturing and consumer behavior, as well as industry employment and product prices. AAFA President Kevin Burke noted that it’s easy to forget how deep and diffuse the supply chain that delivers consumer products can be. He said, “Four million Americans help you get dressed every day. And increasingly complex global value chains mean that those four million Americans are working harder than ever to bring American families the clothes and shoes they want and need.”

ApparelStats 2013 includes analysis of U.S consumption, production and import penetration, apparel imports and exports, textile and cotton exports, among other subjects. Those in search of quick access to data via graphs and charts will not be disappointed; there are visual representations of statistics for all of these subjects and more, including breakdowns of apparel and retail prices, of U.S. imports of apparel by country and U.S. exports of yarn, textiles and cotton. There is also a section devoted to existing free trade agreements and special preference programs, the importance of which Burke specifically highlighted.

Burke said, “While reshoring efforts are making a measurable impact in the apparel and footwear industry, the vast majority of products are still made outside our borders. Trade agreements with our global partners remain a large part of the sourcing decisions made by executives every day. The average duty rate paid on all imports hovers at just over one percent, yet the average rate for U.S. footwear imports was still more than 10% in 2012 and more than 13% for U.S. apparel imports. As companies continue to diversify away from China, increased utilization of Free Trade Agreements and passage of commonsense legislation such as the Affordable Footwear Act will benefit everyone, from the four million Americans in our industry to hardworking American families who buy clothes and shoes for their children and themselves.”

Recently, Burke delivered an impassioned endorsement of the Affordable Footwear Act. He said, “If there was ever an opportunity for Washington to improve its public image with the American people, the Affordable Footwear Act is it. The Senate and House now have a valuable opportunity to work together in a bipartisan way and offer hardworking American families a real cost savings at the cash register. Once passed by both chambers and signed into law, the Affordable Footwear Act will eliminate the hidden taxes on low-cost and children’s shoes and create valuable footwear jobs right here in the United States. We will continue working to pass this commonsense legislation as soon as possible.”

ApparelStats 2013 paints a picture of U.S. consumption slumping somewhat in overall volume but improving from the perspective of the value of that consumption. So while U.S. apparel consumption by volume dipped modestly in 2012, personal consumption expenditures spiked 4.8% to $282.2 billion. According to the AAFA, this “continued growth reflects both the increase in retail prices driven by higher supply chain costs, including increases in materials, labor, and transportation, as well as consumers returning to purchases of apparel at higher price-points coming out of the recession.”

Also, U.S. apparel employment grew slightly by 0.8% to a total of 2.91 million workers, obviously a movement in the right direction but still stuck at levels below what the country experienced before the recession.

And, on average, each American spent $898 on sixty-two garments in 2012. This is a surprisingly large number when considering that this statistic includes not just every adult consumer, but every man, woman and child in the U.S. population.

ShoeStats 2013 covers comparable ground specifically applied to footwear. It, too, provides a summary view of the footwear industry for 2012, assessing both production  and consumption, U.S. imports and exports. The report contains some promising news, like that U.S. footwear consumption jumped by 4.9% to a record $72.4 billion. The AAFA attributes the brisk growth to a litany of factors, including “increased costs throughout the supply chain resulting in higher retail prices and consumers continuing their return to purchases of shoes at higher price-points as they continue to come out of the recession.”

China remains the dominant footwear maker for the U.S., making 80 percent of the shoes bought by Americans. However, U.S. footwear imports declined 2.7 percent in 2012. U.S. footwear employment expanded by 1.3% to 1.02 million workers, still below pre-recession levels. And, on average, every American spent $230 on about seven pairs of shoes.

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