US apparel import volumes surged 8.0% year-on-year in March

US apparel import volumes surged 8.0% year-on-year in March

China and Vietnam led a surge in US apparel imports in March as retailers emerged from the annual post-holiday slowdown and started stocking up for the spring and summer seasons.

US apparel import volumes surged 8.0% year-on-year in March, according to the latest figures from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).

The figures outpace the 5.9% rise in imports of all goods and services into the US during the month, with apparel volumes climbing to 1.83bn square metre equivalents (SME) from 1.7bn SME in March last year.

So far, so good. But the numbers also show a decline of 7.6% on February's apparel imports of 1.98bn SME - which were, in turn, lower than both the previous month and year.

Drilling down to individual supplier countries, double-digit gains were reported in March by four of the top-10, led by China and Vietnam.

Apparel imports from China booked a 10.9% rise to 503m SME, contrasting with a 12.0% fall to 754m SME in February.

Vietnam, meanwhile, the second-largest apparel supplier to the US and the fastest-growing last year, continued its upward trajectory with a massive 20.9% jump in shipments to 207m SME.

Vietnam has been gaining as both producers and buyers diversify their supply chains by moving some manufacturing from China. The country is also being buoyed by the expected benefits of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty with countries including Canada and the US.

Other winners during the month were Indonesia (up 9.1% to 132m SME), Cambodia (up 12.8% to 108m SME) and India (up or 22.3% to 101m SME).

But Bangladesh, the US's third-largest apparel supplier, saw its shipments drop 1.7% to 145m SME - a decline that is significant as it marks the third month in a row in which the country's growth has slowed.

Declines were also booked during March by Honduras (down 0.73% to 92m SME), El Salvador (down 1.36% to 69m SME) and Pakistan (down 0.32% to 49m SME).

Among the most important regional supply groups, imports from ASEAN jumped 13.0% to 519m SME, and South Asia rose 7.1% to 336m SME.

Combined imports of textiles and apparel in the US during March surged 9.76% to 4.17bn SME from 3.8bn SME a year earlier. Textile imports jumped 11.2% to 2.34bn SME.

Year to date
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 climbed 4.7% in the three months from January to March, reaching 13.6bn SME, up from 12.95bn SME in the same period the year before.

Within this, textiles rose 6.9% to 7.6bn SME, and apparel shipments edged up 2.0% to 5.9bn SME on the prior year.

Movement within the top three apparel supplier counties during the three months shows imports from China have slipped 0.24% to 2.18bn SME, in contrast to a 12.5% hike booked by Vietnam to 670m SME. The volume of imports from Bangladesh has fallen 2.9% to 447m SME.

A notable winner during the year so far is India, whose apparel shipments to the US have surged 13.2% to 266m SME.