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Global Players Flood US With Apparel Imports; 30% Surge Seen

U.S apparel imports continue to surge, with retailers and brands bringing in 29.7 percent more merchandise in April compared to a year earlier to reach 2.68 billion square meter equivalents (SME) for the month, according to new data from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Virtually every major supplier participated in the growth spurt, from Asia to Africa and the Western Hemisphere, as consumer demand has remained strong despite inflation weighing on disposable income.

S&P Global Market Intelligence revised up its forecast of second quarter gross domestic product growth to 2.4 percent from 1.9 percent and its full-year outlook to 2.5 percent from 2.4 percent.

“The upward revision to Q2 was more than accounted for by an upward revision in consumer spending growth, from 2.1 percent to 4.3 percent,” Joel Prakken, co-head of U.S. economics at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said.

OTEXA’s report showed imports for top supplier China, despite continued tariffs on apparel, increased 28.5 percent in April from the previous year to 705.78 million SME. However, this was below its Asian competitors for U.S. market share.

Shipments from Bangladesh, for example, rose a year-over-year 51 percent in April to 287.56 million SME, while imports increased 43.4 percent to 166.65 million SME from India, 41 percent to 158.94 million SME from Indonesia, 40 percent to 133.23 percent from Cambodia, 49.7 percent to 49.1 percent from Sri Lanka and 38.2 percent to 87.83 million SME from Pakistan.

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The Walt Disney Co. gave Pakistan manufacturers a boost with the recent announcement eight years after it pulled production out of the nation, citing a desire to pivot production from the “highest-risk” countries, that it will permit its vendors and licensees to procure products from facilities enrolled in the Better Work program, an International Labor Organization (ILO)-backed venture that partners with governments, factory owners and labor groups to promote safe and competitive workplace conditions.

The program kicked off in Pakistan following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the ILO and local officials. Funding for the three-year pilot, which will cover a minimum of 120 factories, is being provided by Pakistan’s Export Development Fund, the European Commission and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Rounding out the top Asian suppliers, imports from No. 2 supplier Vietnam, bouncing back from a lull caused by factory closures, were up 24.1 percent to 471.39 SME, while Thailand’s shipments rose 38.3 percent to 39.13 million SME in the period.

Western Hemisphere production hubs, generally benefitting from free trade deals, posted more moderate gains for the month. Imports rose 14.6 percent to 76.22 million SME from Honduras, 22 percent to 56.7 million SME from Nicaragua, 24.4 percent to 48.01 million SME from Haiti, 9.3 percent to 22.64 million SME from the Dominican Republic, 27.6 percent to 10.37 million SME from Peru and 14.4 percent to 3.47 million SME from Colombia. At the same time, shipments from El Salvador fell 12 percent to 46.56 million SME.

Out of Africa, imports from Egypt were up 50 percent to 51.78 million SME, while shipments rose 150 percent to 9.85 million SME from Ethiopia, 29.2 percent to 12.81 million SME from Kenya and 27.6 percent to 10.37 million SME from Madagascar.