US apparel and textile imports increased in March as gains in textile imports – the first in several months – compensated for declines in apparel. The overall gain in apparel and textiles was 1.7%. The data, released by the Commerce Department’s Office for Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), showed textile imports increasing 7% over 2011, as apparel imports fell 4.8%.
It has been speculated that the decline in apparel imports is related to US retailers and wholesalers trying to reduce inventories.
Major winners included Vietnam, with an 8% increase, South Korea, with a 7% increase, and China, with an 18.5% increase. Imports from Bangladesh were up 6.1%, year over year, with the biggest increase in trousers. India and Pakistan were the biggest losers, with a 24.5% decline and a 25.6% decline in volume, respectively. Pakistani exporters have complained of difficulties with electricity supply and export financing in recent months.
The United States trade deficit also increased to $51.8 billion from $45.4 billion, which is often an indicator of renewed demand among consumers. Imports and exports both hit records in March, but an increase in consumer goods outpaced the growth in exports.