US imports of apparel and footwear have spent the past few months on a see-saw ride. Growth surged in February, slowed in March, then rebounded in April, according to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce data on international trade.
Total apparel imports on a CIF basis gained 3.4%, more than double last month’s rate of increase, to $6.6 billion. Shipments from Vietnam, Pakistan and Bangladesh have grown the fastest of any of the top trading partners so far this year, while those from Mexico have declined the most.
Imports of all goods and services gained only .7% compared to the same month last year.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports increased by 1%, their biggest gain in eleven months.
By contrast, apparel exports fell .8% in April, to $449 million. Among the top export markets for U.S. apparel, the most significant increases so far this year have been in shipments to the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and the Netherlands, while apparel exports to Mexico, Belgium and El Salvador have fallen the most.
Footwear imports rose 1.3%% in April compared to the same month last year, and on a 12-month smoothed basis gained 7% which, compared to the last few months, indicates a slowdown in the category.
China is the biggest source of U.S. footwear, representing 70% 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 plunged 7.5%, to $62 million. The biggest U.S. export markets for footwear are Canada, at 22% of footwear exports in February, South Korea, at 20%, and Japan, at 11%.