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U.S. Footwear Imports Surge to Record $12 Billion in First Half 2014

Footwear imports gained momentum, propelling the category to its largest first half of the year ever. Imports from Vietnam continued to represent a larger part of the U.S. market, while China continued to lose the most share.

According to the most recent U.S. government data, footwear imports grew by 6 percent in June compared to the same month last year, bringing the year-to-date total to $12.1 billion, 3.1% ahead of the same period last year. On a 12-month smoothed basis, footwear imports growth accelerated to 3.5% in June.

The average cost for a pair of imported footwear increased by 3.5% in the first six months of the year compared to the same period one year ago, to $9.67.

Cost increases were largely due to increased labor costs–that were passed along to importers–to a relatively strong U.S. footwear market, particularly in casual and athleisure shoes, and to healthy sales at the high end of the market.

An estimated 98 percent of footwear sold in the U.S. is imported, according to the AAFA.

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Despite losing 2.9 percentage points of market share so far this year, China remains by far the dominant supplier to the U.S., with 66 percent share of total footwear imports. The average cost per pair for footwear imported from China between January and May was $7.96, 19 percent below the overall average. Roughly 39 percent of the footwear imported from China is made of leather, with the balance made mostly of synthetic materials. In 2013, footwear imports from China fell 0.8% to $16.6 billion.

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Vietnam gained 1.8 percentage points of market share so far this year, bringing its share of U.S. footwear to 13.8%, a new record. Year-to-date footwear imports from Vietnam have surged by almost 18.5%, to almost $1.7 billion. Unit imports have grown by more than 16 percent, driving up the average pair cost by more than 2 percent year-over-year. Nearly 42 percent of footwear from Vietnam is made of leather. Last year, footwear imports from Vietnam grew by more than 20 percent in dollar terms, to almost $2.9 billion.

Italy supplies the most expensive footwear to the U.S., at an average cost of over $78 per pair, up 4 percent over last year for the January to June period. In 2013, the U.S. imported $1.2 billion worth of footwear from Italy, an 8.5% increase over last year. Almost 90 percent of the footwear imported from Italy is made of leather. Italy is now the third largest supplier in dollar terms to the U.S. footwear market, with a 5.8% share, underscoring the importance of the luxury business.

Imports from Indonesia, the fourth largest source of U.S. footwear with a 5.2% share, fell by over 2 percent for the first half, to $627 million. The average cost per pair from Indonesia rose 4.6% to $13.60.

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