Total imports of apparel increased significantly in February compared to the same month last year, according to data just released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Apparel imports (CIF) gained 11.3%, to $7.2 billion, with double-digit increases from China and Vietnam driving the increase.
Imports of all goods and services fell compared to both the prior month and same month last year.
On a 12-month smoothed basis, apparel imports increased by over a half-percent, its first monthly increase in the past seven months, fueling optimism that the slump in apparel demand might finally be over.
Apparel exports fell 2.1%, to $454 million. The value of exports to the UK has surged since the beginning of the year, but this has been more than offset by declined in exports to Mexico.
Footwear imports gained a whopping 28% in February compared to 2012, and on a 12-month smoothed basis increased 10%, their seventh 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 dropped by 11.5%, to $64 million. The biggest U.S. export markets for footwear are Canada, at 18% of footwear exports in February, and South Korea (17%).