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Apparel and Footwear Import Growth Slows in March

After surging in February, apparel and footwear import growth took a breather in March, according to recently released U.S. Department of Commerce.

Apparel imports (CIF) fell 1.6%, to $6.1 billion, well below February’s level of $7.2 billion. The biggest declines were in apparel imports from China, which dropped 8.2% on a dollar basis compared to the same month last year, and from El Salvador, down 7.4%. Shipments from Vietnam and Bangladesh increased by 5.4% and 3.7%, respectively. Imported apparel from India dropped by 3.1%.

Imports of all goods and services fell 8.1% compared to the same month last year.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel import growth edged up .4%, slightly less than last month, and only its second monthly increase in the past eight months.

Apparel exports, on the other hand, increased 3.3%, to $505 million. Among the top export markets for U.S. apparel, the most significant increases in shipments were to Japan, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong, all of which had double-digit gains, while apparel exports to Mexico fell 16%.

Footwear imports declinedl 5.9% from March 2012, and on a 12-month smoothed basis gained 8%, their eighth straight month of accelerating growth.

China is the biggest source of U.S. footwear, representing 72% of footwear imports so far this year. Vietnam was next with a more than 11% share, followed at a distance by Indonesia at 5%.

Footwear exports rose 4%, to $76 million. The biggest U.S. export markets for footwear are Canada, at 18% of footwear exports in February, and South Korea (17%).

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