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Apparel Import Growth Accelerates in May

Apparel import growth accelerated in May, while footwear import growth slowed, according to the latest trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Total apparel imports gained 5.6% to $6.8 billion on a CIF basis, faster than growth of either of the prior two months. Shipments from Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia have grown the fastest among the top trading partners so far this year, while those from Mexico have declined the most. On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports increased by 1.9%, almost double April’s rate and their biggest gain in twelve months.

Imports of all goods and services dropped by .6% compared to May 2012. Increases in imports of automobiles and parts, consumer goods, and capital goods were more than offset by decreases in imports of food, feeds, beverages, and industrial supplies.

Apparel exports gained 3.1%, to $468 million. Among top export markets for U.S. apparel, the most significant increases so far in 2013 have been in shipments to the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and the Netherlands. Panama and Saudi Arabia have also seen big increases. Apparel exports to Mexico and Chile have fallen the most.

Footwear imports rose 1.3%% in May compared to the same month last year, and on a 12-month smoothed basis gained 6% which, compared to the last several months, indicates an intensifying slowdown in the category.

China is the biggest source of U.S. footwear, representing 70% of U.S. 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 11%, to $63 million. The biggest U.S. export markets for footwear are Canada, at 19% of footwear exports in May, and South Korea, at 16%. Japan is a distant third at 9%. The Netherlands, Honduras and the UK are also important export footwear markets for the U.S.