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China Holds Its Own in Innerwear Sourcing, Even as Competition Intensifies

While much of apparel sourcing has been put into turmoil during the U.S.-China trade war, sourcing in the innerwear sector has generally held true to form so far this year.

While China has lost much market share in tops and bottoms this year to other Asian countries and the Western Hemisphere, the major categories of cotton and manmade fiber underwear, as well as bras have seen China maintain its stance as the leading supplier with continued growth. This is likely attributable to the combination of the specialty manufacturing and materials needed to produce these items compared to more basic apparel.

On the other hand, in cotton and synthetic styles, like pajamas and robes, imports from China have fallen off and sourcing has diversified. The category has similar production machinery and fabrics, which lends itself to a broader array of suppliers.

Underwear imports from China increased 16.47 percent to a value of $348.45 million for the year to date through May compared to the same period in 2018, according to the latest data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA). This gave China a market share of 23.01 percent, a 6.53 percent gain for the 12 months through May.

Among the top suppliers, gains were posted in the period for India, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Honduras and Haiti. Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and Thailand all saw declines. Underwear imports from Western Hemisphere countries, most of which are eligible for preferential trade treatment, rose 10.98 percent to $384.99 million in value.

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Gildan said in May it had completed a land purchase in Bangladesh for approximately $45 million as part of major Asian capacity expansion initiative to develop large-scale vertically integrated manufacturing in the region to support expected sales growth.

The development of a large multi-plant manufacturing complex is planned to include two large textile facilities and related sewing operations. Once fully operational, the complex is expected to have a capacity to service more than $500 million in sales. Initial production at the facility is expected to start in late 2021.

Bra imports from China were up 6.12 percent to $406.28 million in value in the year through March, although its market share was down 7.03 percent to 40.12 percent for the year. Second-place supplier Vietnam also saw its market share drop to 12.23 percent, a decline of 16.48 percent in the period.

Bangladesh scored a major gain in the period, with its shipments rising 41.57 percent to $53.45 million. This boosted its market share 25.69 percent to 4.12 percent.

Meanwhile, the nightwear category was friendly to leading suppliers Vietnam, India and Indonesia, each posting double-digit percentage increases so far this year. Imports from China in the category fell 3.54 percent to $243.83 million. China still holds a dominant 54.83 percent market share in the category.