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China and Vietnam Remain Clear U.S. Apparel Leaders So Far This Year

China and Vietnam are leading in the race for U.S. apparel import market share, but both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka appear to be gaining momentum as well.

Apparel imports from Vietnam have totaled $5.3 billion year-to-date, and have grown 4 times faster than those from China so far this year on a dollar basis, though the total volume is less than one-third the size of China’s.

Growth in imported apparel from Vietnam accelerated in August, bringing its share of U.S. imported apparel to 10.1%, a gain of .8 percentage points of market share so far this year compared to the same period in 2012.

U.S. apparel imports from China totaled $3.4 billion in August, bringing the year-to-date total to $19 billion. Year-to-date units (on a square meter equivalent basis) rose 5.9%, driving the cost per unit down by a higher-than-average 2.8%.

China’s share is 36.1%, ahead of last month’s 35% year-to-date share, but .3 percentage points behind the same period last year.

Total apparel imports have grown 3.8% on a dollar basis through August compared to the same period last year, according to the most recent data published by the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent basis, has increased 5.8% in the year-to-date period, driving the average cost per SME down by almost 2%.

China had gains in: women’s and girls’ woven cotton blouses and pants, manmade fiber men’s knit shirts, women’s blouses, and hosiery; manmade bras and other intimate apparel. These increases were offset by declines in many other categories, including cotton and manmade fiber skirts and dresses.

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Vietnam maintained its strong number two position thanks to increases in men’s and women’s cotton and manmade fiber shirts and blouses, men’s and women’s pants, and manmade fiber dresses. There were decreases in some categories of innerwear (bras and nightgowns) but increases in others (underwear and pajamas). Total apparel imports from Vietnam so far this year are $4.5 billion, up 12.5% from last year. The cost per SME of apparel imported from Vietnam fell by only .4% in the month.

Despite all the issues with safety and infrastructure, Bangladesh has come roaring back this summer, and so far this year has shipped almost $3.5 billion worth of apparel to the U.S. and gained .4 points of US apparel market share, comprising 6.6% of total apparel imports. It is now the third largest source of U.S. apparel, having replaced Indonesia in the number three spot on both a dollar and unit basis.

Sri Lanka is also on the move. So far this year, it has shipped over one billion dollars worth of apparel to the U.S., 8.8% ahead of last year, putting it ahead of Pakistan as one of the top ten U.S. trading partners in dollar volume. Key product categories from Sri Lanka include women’s bras and men’s and women’s cotton pants.

Mexico, Honduras and Cambodia have suffered significant share losses in U.S. apparel. Both CAFTA and OECD lost share to ASEAN and CBI, though CBI imports are almost exclusively cotton tees from Haiti.