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US Apparel Imports Slowed Rate of Decline in August

Vietnam and Bangladesh were among some bright spots in an improved landscape for U.S. apparel imports in August.

While U.S. apparel imports were down 22 percent in August to $6.57 billion in value terms compared to a year earlier, the pace of declines slowed from the 32 percent year-over-year decrease to $6 billion in July, according to figures released Tuesday by the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

In the coronavirus-ravaged first eight months of the year that led to factory closures and order cancellations and cutbacks from store closures and societal lockdowns, companies imported 29.52 percent less apparel for a value of $40.39 billion compared to the same period in 2019, according to OTEXA.

The most significant impact continued to be on China, which has also been caught up in geopolitical controversies, with a 47.91 percent year-to-date decrease through August to $9.16 billion. This was slightly better than the 49.34 percent year-to-date decline through July. In August, U.S. apparel shipments from China were down 41 percent compared to a year earlier to $1.82 billion.

Creeping up to challenge China’s top-supplier spot was Vietnam, which saw apparel imports dip 1.2 percent in value to $1.24 billion in the month compared to August 2019. For the first eight months of the year, apparel shipments from Vietnam fell 9.77 percent to $8.18 billion. Vietnam also slowed the rate of decline from an 11.06 percent drop in the seven-month period through July compared to a year earlier to $1.29 billion.

Vietnam was able to see a 4.4 percent year-over-year volume increase to 14.57 million square meter equivalents (SME) in August.

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No. 3 supplier Bangladesh had a better month, with imports increasing 15.7 percent in value to $1.24 billion and 20.1 percent in volume to 348.19 million SME. Year to date, imports from Bangladesh were still down 14.56 percent to $3.49 billion.

Among the rest of the Top 10 Asian suppliers, imports from Cambodia fell 4.3 percent in August from a year earlier to a value of $266.15 million. For the year to date, Cambodia’s shipments have increased 4.2 percent to $1.8 billion.

Imports from Indonesia have fallen 20.89 percent in the eight months to $2.38 billion and were down 26 percent year over year in August to $298.63 million. Shipments from India have decreased 32.01 percent to $2 billion year to date and were down 18 percent to $256.02 million in value in the month year over year, but declined just 2.9 percent in volume to 82.16 million SME in August from a year earlier, while imports from Pakistan have declined 16.1 percent year to date to $818 million, but rose 3.7 percent to $129.88 million in value and were up 12.1 percent in volume to 55.42 million SME in the month compared to August 2019.

Among top Western Hemisphere suppliers, imports from Mexico have fallen 35.03 percent to $1.41 billion in the eight months, but were down only 3.4 percent year over year in August to 65.68 million SME, although in value terms they were down 28 percent to $202.62 million.

Shipments from Honduras have plummeted 43.4 percent to $1.03 billion year to date, but were down just 2.5 percent in volume in August year over year to 82.22 million SME and declined 22 percent in value to $197.19 million. Imports from El Salvador have also nosedived 43.3 percent year to date to $704 million, with considerable declines in volume and value in August year over year, as well.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced Tuesday that the goods and services deficit was $67.1 billion in August, up $3.7 billion from $63.4 billion in July.

The deficit with China decreased $1.9 billion to $26.4 billion in August, the agencies said. Exports increased $1.7 billion to $11.2 billion, while imports declined $200 million to $37.7 billion.