Vietnam saw its apparel shipments to the US increase 9.3% in November

Vietnam saw its apparel shipments to the US increase 9.3% in November

With most holiday merchandise brought into the US early as retailers rushed to beat a possible shutdown of West Coast ports, it is perhaps not surprising that apparel imports fell in November. But with shipments plunging from eight of the top-ten suppliers, Vietnam alone was the stand-out performer during the month.

Just-released figures from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) show the volume of apparel imports from all sources fell 1.16% in November following strong gains in September and October.

Imports came to 1.83bn square metre equivalents (SME), slightly below the 1.85bn SME reported in the same month of last year - although this represents a massive 25% drop on October's 2.47bn SME.

Separate trade statistics show US imports of goods and services fell 2.2% month-on-month in November - yet imports of consumer goods rose 7.8% to $48.5bn, the highest on record.

When it comes to individual supplier countries, there was a marked difference in the performance between the top two.

While shipments from market-leading China - the largest supplier of apparel to the US, with a 42.5% share of the market - slipped 0.16% to 777m SME in November, those from its nearest rival, Vietnam climbed 9.3% to 202m SME. However, shipments from both countries were significantly lower than the previous month, with China tumbling 30.6% and Vietnam falling 24.6%.

In fact, Vietnam was the only country in the list of the top-eight apparel suppliers to the US to see import gains during November. Whereas China posted the smallest decline.

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.

The month was another gloomy one for Bangladesh, though. The country sits at number three in the top-ten league table, but it imports into the US declined 15.1% to 100m SME as buyers relocate orders elsewhere in response to factory safety issues.

That said, the fall was level with that seen in October - although it also represents the eighth consecutive month of decline during the year for Bangladesh, having started its fall in February.

Declines were also booked by Indonesia (down 8.02% to 80m SME), Honduras (down 9.2% to 79m SME), Cambodia (down 3.6% to 75m SME), India (down 1.7% to 61m SME), Mexico (down 1.85% to 70m SME) and Pakistan (down 17.2% to 39m SME).

Also standing out from the crowd, El Salvador saw its shipments edge up 2.4% to 58m 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 the total volume of US apparel and textile imports increased 4.7% in the 11 months from January to November, reaching 54.7bn SME, up from 52.3bn SME in the same period a year ago.

Within this, textiles grew 5.9% to 30.98bn SME, and apparel shipments rose 3.1% to 23.73bn SME year-on-year.

Movement within the top three apparel supplier countries during the 11-month period shows imports from China have risen 4.2% to 10.0bn SME, while Vietnam has booked a 13.3% increase to 2.54bn SME. However, the volume of imports from Bangladesh in the year so far has fallen 6.5% to 1.49bn SME.

Other changes include a 1.8% drop in apparel imports from Indonesia to 1.16bn SME and a 4% fall for Cambodia to 951m SME. But apparel shipments from Honduras to the US have edged up 0.94% to 993m SME, India's exports to the US have risen 7.9% to reach 891m SME, and Mexico is up 0.48% to 849m SME.

Sitting at the bottom of the top-ten apparel supplier list are El Salvador (down 0.68% to 723m SME) and Pakistan (down 0.73% to 541m SME).

Click on the following link for a more detailed breakdown on China's import performance: China on track for year of US apparel share gains.