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US Apparel Imports Ballooned 141% in May

The surge in U.S. apparel imports continued in May, as retailers and brands restocked to meet a strong return of consumer demand, with every major and secondary producer nation taking part in the upswing.

While monthly and year-to-date comparisons are skewed by last year’s Covid-caused lockdown and store closures, the increases are still substantial. U.S. apparel imports from the world jumped 141 percent in May compared to a year earlier to 2.28 billion square meter equivalents (SME), with increases among the Top 10 suppliers ranging from 64 percent to 888 percent, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textile & Apparel (OTEXA).

In the first five months of the year, apparel importers brought in 35.3 percent more merchandise, or 11.04 billion SME, compared to the same period in 2020. Gains in this period ranged from 9 percent to 59 percent among the Top 10 sourcing spots, according to OTEXA data.

China retained its top spot for the month and year to date, with its shipments up 79.2 percent in May compared to a year earlier to 704.69 million SME and increasing 45.85 percent for the year so far to 3.52 billion SME. Imports from No. 2 Vietnam rose 137 percent year over year in May to 382.69 million SME and were up 31.16 percent in the five-month period to 1.91 billion SME.

Looking at their Asian competitors, Bangladesh’s shipments increased 288 percent year over year in May to 232 million SME and were up 27.3 percent so far in 2021, while imports from Cambodia rose 64.3 percent in the month compared to May 2020 to 75.71 million SME and were up 23.8 percent year to date to 494 million SME.

Imports from India spiked 550 percent in the five months to 78.19 million SME and increased 35.67 percent year to date to 553 million SME, as shipments from Indonesia rose 103 percent in the month to 91.64 million SME and were up 8.96 percent to 460 million SME through May, and imports from Pakistan jumped 341 percent to 84.57 million SME for the month and increased 56.53 percent for the year to date to 358 million SME.

Among Western Hemisphere suppliers, imports from Honduras leapt 673 percent in May from a year earlier to 78.19 million SME and rose 51.6 percent in the five-month period to 339 million SME. Mexico’s shipments increased 74.9 percent year over year to 71 million SME and were up 33.13 percent to 332 million SME so far this year, while imports from El Salvador skyrocketed 888 percent in May year over year to 55.01 million SME and increased 59.41 percent to 261 million SME in the January-to-May period.

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