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US Apparel Imports: China’s September Shipments Jump 25%

The fallout from Vietnamese factory closures was finally apparent in U.S. apparel import figures released Thursday by the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Apparel imports from Vietnam fell 4.6 percent in September compared to a year earlier to 345.11 million square meter equivalents (SME), according to OTEXA. This was after imports from the supplier had increased a year-over-year 22.3 percent in August. For the first nine months of 2021, Vietnam’s apparel shipments were still up 19.19 percent to 3.37 billion SME.

VF Corp. chief financial officer Matt Puckett said on a conference call last month that “the resurgence of Covid-19 lockdown and key sourcing countries like Vietnam has resulted in more impactful production delays.”

However, Vietnam’s shipments should start to improve with factories reopening. “Nearly all” factories with which Under Armour does business, including those in Vietnam, where around one third of the brand’s footwear and apparel are produced, are open, chief financial officer David Bergman said this week. Ramping up those facilities could take another couple months, president and CEO Patrik Frisk said. Virtually all of Nike’s Vietnam partners are back online, the nation’s government announced Wednesday.

Apparel imports from the world increased 17.1 percent from a year earlier to 2.88 billion SME in September and were up 29.08 percent year to date to 21.59 billion SME, as merchants looked to get merchandise in for the crucial fourth quarter despite port bottlenecks. The pace did slow from the 31.25 percent gain in the first eight months of the year.

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All major suppliers posted year-over-year and year-to-date increases, although Cambodia’s gains were more subdued. Shipments from Cambodia rose just 2 percent in the month compared to September 2021 to 139.8 million SME and were up 10.71 percent to 913 million SME in the nine-month period. This came after a 29 percent decline in July year over year that was followed by an 18 percent rise in August for Cambodia.

Top supplier China, despite continued political strife and ongoing tariffs with the U.S., saw its apparel shipments arriving in U.S. ports increase 25.2 percent in September compared to a year earlier to 1.3 billion SME. This outpaced a 15.6 percent rise in August. For the year to date, apparel imports from China were up 33.22 percent to 7.99 billion SME.

The rest of the top Asian suppliers saw significant gains. Imports from Bangladesh increased 42 percent for the month to 228.96 million SME and were up 33.83 percent year to date to 1.87 billion SME.

India’s shipments rose a year-over-year 31.8 percent to 104.47 million SME and increased 41.89 percent to 932 million SME year to date. Imports from Indonesia were up 33.1 percent for the month to 96.44 million SME and 14.39 percent to 797 million SME in the nine months. Imports from Pakistan increased 18.3 percent year over year to 69.27 million SME and rose 50.02 percent year to date to 647 million SME.

Among the Western Hemisphere nations in the Top 10 suppliers, imports from Honduras rose just 2.3 percent in the month to 79.52 million SME, but were up 35.95 year to date to 652 million SME. Shipments from Mexico increased 15 percent year over year in September to 68.62 million SME and imports from El Salvador were up 6.3 percent for the month to 62.77 million SME and gained 50.12 percent year to date to 491 million SME.

Other notable increases from Western Hemisphere countries benefitting from a nearshoring wave were Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru and Colombia.