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September Slowdown: Overstocked US Sees Apparel Imports Fall

With brands and retailers increasingly concerned about tepid demand and high inventories heading into the holiday homestretch, the pace of U.S. apparel imports continued to decline in September, according to new data released Thursday by the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Imports of apparel processed at U.S. ports of entry increased 16.89 percent year to date in September to 25.24 billion square meter equivalents (SME), down from the 20.58 percent gain in the first eight months of the year compared to the same period in 2021 and a 24 percent increase in the first half of the year.

Columbia Sportswear said last week that inventories increased 47 percent to $1.06 billion at the end of the third quarter compared to last year, citing late inventory receipts and slower consumer demand causing greater than anticipated order cancellations and higher inventory levels.

To align inventory levels more closely with anticipated demand, the company said it is adjusting inventory purchases and utilizing outlet stores to sell excess merchandise. Columbia said it expects inventory to remain elevated for the next several quarters, as it balances reducing inventory levels with maintaining profitability.

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OTEXA data showed No. 1 supplier China’s shipments were up 11.52 percent in the nine months to 8.91 billion SME. This compared to a 19.3 percent increase year to date through August.

Imports from Vietnam rose 18.84 percent in the nine-month period to 4 billion SME. This outpaced Vietnam’s increase of 18.09 percent reported in the eight-month cycle. Imports from surging Bangladesh slowed slightly to a 33.95 percent hike to 2.5 billion SME, after rising 36.35 percent through August.

Rounding out the Top 10 Asian producers, India’s shipments were up 33 percent to 1.24 billion SME, Cambodia’s increased 24.16 percent to 1.13 billion SME and imports from Pakistan rose 13.2 percent to 732.6 million SME.

Imports from Western Hemisphere suppliers in the Top 10 were sluggish. Shipments from Honduras increased a year-to-date 10.42 percent in September to 719.55 million SME, while imports from Nicaragua rose 15.1 percent in the period to 513.76 million SME and goods arriving from Mexico were down 3.95 percent to 610.21 million SME.

Overall imports from the Western Hemisphere were up 4.3 percent in the period to 3.29 billion SME. Within that, imports from Central American Free Trade Agreement countries increased 6.91 percent to 2.21 billion SME.