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Apparel Imports from Bangladesh See Sharp Climb in September

U.S. apparel brands are getting over their reluctance to source in Bangladesh, judging from data released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).

U.S. apparel imports from Bangladesh skyrocketed 34 percent in September to $465 million from $356 million during the same month last year, almost five times faster than total apparel import growth. On a square meter equivalent basis, imports from Bangladesh jumped 43 percent.

Bangladesh imports comprised 5.8% of the total value of U.S. apparel imports in the month, up from 4.3% in September 2014.

The cost of apparel sourced from Bangladesh has declined in the past year, with the average dollar value per SME down 3.6% during the first nine months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, compared to an only 1.9% drop in the cost per SME of total imports. This is not surprising, given the pressure that brands and retailers are under to reduce the cost of goods and offer more value.

Cotton apparel comprises almost 80 percent of the imports from Bangladesh. Men’s and boy’s cotton pants are the biggest category, at around one-third of the total, followed by men’s woven shirts, women’s pants, women’s dresses, women’s and girls’ knit tops, and underwear.

Key manmade fiber apparel categories from Bangladesh include men’s pants, knit tops, and outerwear.

The sharp increase in September may be more a result of increased discussion about burgeoning efforts by the local government and NGOs too improve safety and other compliance conditions in Bangladesh than in actual improvement there. In a recent report by global quality control and compliance service provider AsiaInspection, though inspections in the country grew by 68 percent, the improvement in conditions has been relatively modest.  The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety asserts that fewer than 10 percent of its member factories have made changes recommended by the group.