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Despite Factory Fires, U.S. Buys More From Bangladesh

The numbers are in: despite a rash of bad publicity following not one, but two devastating factory fires in Bangladesh, and threats from the U.S. to revoke Bangladesh’s duty-free trade status, apparel and textile imports to the U.S. from Bangladesh rose 11% in January, as compared to January of 2012.

But according to Erik Autor, VP of the National Retail Federation, the consequences for Bangladesh may be yet to come. “We’ve had the whole issue over fire safety, and I think that has made companies really cautious about Bangladesh,” Autor told Women’s Wear Daily. “I think folks are a little nervous about fire-safety issues, how this will play out and what the industry’s response is going to be to try and fix that problem.”

Last week’s report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel indicated that apparel and textile imports to the U.S. gained 3.7% across the board, a percentage which translates to 4.6 billion “square meter equivalents”–a unit of measurement that can be applied to any material. Apparel imports saw the more significant leap–4.2%–followed closely by textile imports, which rose 3.3%.

The vast majority of apparel and textile imports come from China, but as the U.S. has attempted to diversify its sourcing, Bangladesh has emerged as an obvious alternative. Now, Auter said, Vietnam and Indonesia stand to benefit from that “migration.” Indeed, the biggest growth this January came from Vietnam, which increased its shipments to the U.S. by 22.7%. Indonesia shipped nearly 10% more than it did last January.