Bangladesh saw its apparel shipments to the US rise 20% in December

Bangladesh saw its apparel shipments to the US rise 20% in December

Despite continued disruption at US West Coast ports, apparel imports into the country bounced back in December, with Bangladesh seeing its first rise since January last year. Four of the top-ten supplier countries saw strong double-digit growth, including Bangladesh, with China and Vietnam remaining top of the table.

Latest figures from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) show the volume of apparel imports from all sources increased 5% in December following a 1.2% fall in November. Imports amounted to 1.92bn square metre equivalents (SME), up on the 1.83bn SME recorded in the same month of the prior year.

Breaking it down into individual supplier countries, shipments from China - the largest supplier of apparel to the US - climbed 1.5% to 773m SME in December, while nearest rival Vietnam continued to see double-digit growth - rising 12.3% to 214m SME compared with a year earlier. Shipments from China were lower than November (-0.5%), while Vietnam was 5.9% higher than the previous month.

Interestingly, Bangladesh, which sits at number three in the top ten league table, saw its apparel shipments into the US increase 20% to 121m SME, marking the first rise for the country in ten months. It was also 21% higher than the previous month, when shipments totalled 100m SME.

Bangladesh started to see its shipments to the US decline in February as buyers moved to relocate orders elsewhere in response to factory safety issues.

Indonesia (number four) saw shipments grow 7.4% to 86m SME, also rebounding from an 8% decline in November, while Honduras registered a 2.5% year-on-year gain to reach 92m SME. Increases were also booked by India (up 10.5% to 66m SME), Mexico (up 6.8% to 68m SME) and Pakistan (up 15.6% to 45m SME).

Only Cambodia and El Salvador reported declines during the month, with the former dropping 6.3% to 69m SME, and the latter falling 4.6% to 66m SME.

Facts behind the figures
China remains a compelling source for apparel buyers as rising prices are largely being offset by productivity gains. There is also the fact that no country can match China in terms of the size of its supply base, its range of skills, its quality levels, its product variety and the completeness of its supply chain.

Vietnam, meanwhile, continues to benefit as both producers and buyers diversify their supply chains. The country's apparel business is also being buoyed by the expected benefits of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty with countries including Canada and the US.

But widespread strikes in Cambodia in January last year, and the resulting government crackdown that led to the deaths of four garment workers, are now being seen in changes to sourcing patterns.

Jeans giant Levi Strauss and US retailer Target Corp have both cut back their orders from Cambodia, and other brands and retailers, including H&M, Gap, Puma and Inditex have warned the Cambodian government that due to the disruption to production and shipping caused by continued unrest, the country is at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market.

Like Vietnam, India may also have benefited from orders diverted from China and Bangladesh according to some analysts, as well as the recovering American economy.

While monthly trade data is often volatile, with big swings from one month to the next, a broader view of the year so far shows total US apparel and textile imports increased 5% in the 12 months to December, reaching 59.37bn SME, up from 56.53bn SME in the same period of the prior year.  

Within this, textiles grew 6.4% to 33.73bn, and apparel shipments rose 3.3% to 25.65bn SME.

Movement within the top three apparel supplier countries during the year shows imports from China have increased 4% to 10.78bn SME, while Vietnam booked growth of 13.2% to 2.75bn SME. The volume of imports from Bangladesh, however, has fallen 4.9% to 1.61bn SME.

Other changes include a 1.2% drop in apparel imports from Indonesia to 1.25bn SME and a 4.2% fall for Cambodia to 1.02bn SME. But apparel shipments from Honduras to the US have climbed 1.1% to 1.09bn, India saw an 8.1% gain to 957m SME, and Mexico edged up 0.9% to 917m SME.

Sitting at the bottom of the top ten apparel supplier list continue to be El Salvador (down 1% to 789m SME) and Pakistan (up 0.4% to 586m SME).