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Apparel Imports Gain Ground in August

The buzz surrounding “Made in USA” has apparently failed to dull the U.S. appetite for foreign-made clothing. August apparel import growth continued the trend of acceleration it began last September, according to just-released Department of Commerce figures.

Total apparel imports (on a CIF basis) were $9.2 billion in August, a 4.6% increase over August of last year and a slight drop from July. Apparel import growth outpaced that of total U.S. goods and services imports, which declined negligibly in August compared to last year due to decreases in consumer goods and automotive vehicles and parts.

Even more important than the monthly year-over-year figures, which are often impacted by cut-off dates and other seasonal factors, is the fact that on a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports grew by 3.8%, their fifth straight month of accelerating growth.

Between July and August, apparel imports from China edged up 3% to $4 billion, while those from Bangladesh fell by 4% to $511 million. Imported apparel from Vietnam gained an impressive 10% to $882 million.

Apparel exports surged 7.4% in August, topping July’s formidable 4.7% growth. Canada remains the largest importer of U.S. apparel, followed by Mexico, Japan and the United Kingdom. Exports to these countries grew 10-20% between July and August.

Footwear imports increased by 2.3% in July compared to a year ago, a smaller increase than in recent months and the eighth month in a row of decelerating growth.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, footwear imports grew by 4.8%.  China is the biggest source of U.S. footwear, representing more than two-thirds of U.S. footwear imports, followed by Vietnam.

Footwear exports dropped 1.4% compared to last year, to $69 million. The biggest U.S. export markets for footwear are Canada, South Korea and Japan.