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China, Vietnam Gain Share of US Apparel Market in First Quarter

Apparel imports from Vietnam and China grew fastest in the first three months of 2013, giving these countries significant share gains in the US apparel market. Bangladesh and Pakistan also saw their exports to the US grow, though their increases were smaller.

Total apparel import growth slowed in March, resulting in a 3% dollar value increase for the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, according to a report published by the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel. Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent basis, increased 7.6% in the year-to-date period, driving the average cost per SME  down 4.2%.

Imports from China have increased by 6.6% on a dollar basis, causing that country’s share to increase by over a percentage point from last year to almost 34%. Most of the gains have been driven by major increases in women’s and girls cotton pants and manmade fiber dress and blouses. The increase in pants imports was helped by cotton prices, which are off the meteoric highs that impacted prices as recently as mid-2012, and the strong colored jeans trends for Spring/Summer 2013. Manmade fiber bras and other intimate apparel from China have also increased.

Vietnam gained .8 points of share, maintaining its strong number two position as a US apparel trading partner, at 10.2% of the total, thanks to increases in imports of manmade fiber dresses and women’s woven and knit tops. Total apparel imports from Vietnam were $1.8 billion, up 14% from last year, making it the trading partner with the fastest growing export business to the US. The cost per SME of apparel imported from Vietnam fell by only 1.4% in the month.

Beleagured Bangladesh gained .1 points of US apparel market share in the first three months of 2013, to 7.2% of total apparel imports. But for the concerns over factory safety, it might have rivaled Indonesia for the Number Three spot before long. However, it appears as though imports from Bangladesh might slow while US retailers assess the working conditions of major factories and suppliers there.

The US has imported almost $18 billion worth of apparel so far this year. Overall, cotton apparel imports have been flat, while that of man-made fiber apparel has increased by 9%

India, Mexico and Cambodia have suffered the biggest share losses. Both CAFTA and South Asia lost share to ASEAN and CBI.


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