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Apparel Imports: Winners and Losers in Shipment Slowdown

As companies look to trim inventories and deal with lukewarm consumer demand, U.S. apparel imports rose a tepid 12.27 percent year to date through October compared to the same period in 2021 to 27.45 billion square meter equivalents (SME), down from a 16.89 percent year-to-date increase the prior month, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA) reported on Tuesday.

Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger owner PVH Corp. said last week that inventory in the third quarter had increased 32 percent compared to a year earlier due to a combination of abnormally low inventory levels in the prior-year period, a planned increase in core product to mitigate supply chain and logistics disruptions, and elevated inventory levels in the North America wholesale business due to lower-than-expected demand.

Apparel imports from top supplier China were up just 4.94 percent to 9.61 billion SME in the 10-month period compared to an 11.52 percent year-to-date rise in September, according to OTEXA. This comes amid geopolitical pressure over the country’s forced labor and Covid policy, as well as continued tariffs on Chinese imports into the United States.

Following a customary four-year review, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said in October that it would keep Section 301 tariffs in place to the dismay of critics seeking relief from the additional tax burden. USTR Katherine Tai said the agency will continue to consider their efficacy, noting that the government won’t roll back tariffs until Beijing adopts market-oriented trade and economic principles.

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Shipments from No. 2 supplier Vietnam increased 15.99 percent in the period to 4.35 billion SME, dipping from an 18.84 percent nine-month gain. Imports from Bangladesh continued to see major gains over last year, posting a 31.39 percent rise for the year through October to 2.76 billion SME.

Among the rest of the Top 10 Asian producers, India saw its shipments climb 25.73 percent to 1.33 billion SME, while Indonesia’s increased 33.9 percent to 1.23 billion SME, Cambodia’s rose 15.66 percent to 1.22 billion SME and imports from Pakistan rose 9.36 percent to 789.71 billion SME.

Shipments from Western Hemisphere suppliers rounded out the Top 10. Imports from Honduras were up 9.43 percent in the first 10 months of 2022 to 787.67 million SME, as shipments from Mexico fell 3.75 percent to 672.66 million SME and imports from Nicaragua rose 12.6 percent to 563.9 million SME.

Overall imports from the Western Hemisphere inched up 2.13 percent in the period to 3.59 billion SME. Within that, imports from Central American Free Trade Agreement countries increased 5.44 percent to 2.42 billion SME.