Blog: Leonie BarrieUS apparel imports slump 58% year-on-year in May

Leonie Barrie | 6 July 2020

US apparel imports in May fell by 58% against the same month last year as the global garment industry continued to crumble under the coronavirus pandemic. However, there was a resurgence in shipments from Central America and Mexico as retailers appear to have turned to those suppliers closest to home as stores started to reopen.

1 July should have been a day to celebrate in Mexico as its newly revamped trade deal with the US and Canada – the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – swung into effect. But instead, the Aztec nation is counting its losses.

El Salvador, too, has seen 20,000 apparel industry jobs go this year and could lose another 5,000 as production plummets due to Covid-19.

Sustainability, innovation and digitalisation are all seen as key to helping the Indian textile and clothing industry build back better from the pandemic. The South Asian manufacturing hub could also benefit from its indigenous environmentally friendly processes and models of textile production, executives believe.

However, in the short-term, Indian apparel exporters are fearing missed deadlines – with key inputs from China either stuck at Indian customs or not shipped at all following military tensions between the two neighbours

New reports have emerged of "shocking" working conditions at clothing factories in the UK city of Leicester, which are said to have continued to operate at full capacity during lockdown primarily to sustain orders from their biggest customer, Boohoo.

Value fashion retailer Primark is pressing ahead with new store openings and is placing GBP1bn (US$1.25bn) worth of orders for the autumn/winter season after reporting an "encouraging" start to post-lockdown trading.

Overall, however, some garment makers believe that while consumers will be unlikely to prioritise clothes shopping in the near-term, it should be business as usual by autumn.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques are among the tools to help retail planners make the best decisions at every stage of this or any other pandemic – from initial response to recovery

In the US, changes are afoot on the labelling front. The Federal Trade Commission is looking to turn its 'Made in USA' standard into a new 'Made in USA Labeling' rule to enable it to seek civil penalties to deter violations. The FTC is also mulling an end to the 50-year-old care labelling requirements for clothing sold in the United States.

Meanwhile, experts believe digital apparel and textile trade shows are unlikely to replace physical shows post-pandemic.

In other news, H&M has taken its online second-hand clothing shop Sellpy to Germany; Cambodia has again urged the EU to reconsider plans to partially withdraw its preferential access; and VF Corp is to appoint its first president of Greater China as part of growth plans for the region.

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