Blog: Leonie BarrieUS apparel imports take a tumble in June

Leonie Barrie | 15 August 2016

Apparel imports into the US took a tumble in June, even though more than half of the top-ten supplier countries booked growth. Cambodia led the field with a double-digit increase, while Indonesia and Pakistan also booked strong growth.

US apparel imports from Bangladesh have also risen steadily in the year so far, up 4.3% to 973m SME. But recent terrorist attacks, along with a number of other threats, endanger the competitiveness – and even the viability – of Bangladesh's apparel industry.

It’s a view mirrored by the European Commission, whose third annual update on progress in the Bangladeshi garment sector since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in 2013 says there remains a "pressing need" for further action by Bangladeshi authorities to improve labour conditions.

Separate research has also found the legal minimum wage and purchasing power of average monthly pay in some of Bangladesh's factories falls below World Bank poverty lines.The Fair Labor Association's (FLA) first annual compensation report studied average earnings (including benefits and incentives, and excluding taxes, legal deductions, and overtime) in 124 mainly apparel and footwear factories in 21 countries.

Meanwhile, concern is growing in Kenya that its clothing manufacturing industry will no longer benefit from the European Union's 'market access regulation' from 1 October, which has granted its exporters duty-free and quota-free access to the EU since 2008.

But the European Commission has told just-style it is planning to launch a sustainability impact assessment on a proposed European Union (EU)-Indonesia free trade deal that is expected to boost apparel and textile trade on both sides.

And the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) has welcomed proposals from the country’s ministry of industry and trade to develop large textile and garment industrial zones to attract investment for dyeing and fabric and yarn production.

With the exception of the US and EU, the world's top 12 garment exporters, including China, India and Pakistan are rated 'high' or 'extreme risk' for modern slavery, according to a new global ranking.

And after the UK's Brexit referendum vote to leave the EU, the British clothing industry has been weighing up the immediate impact and trying to assess what might happen in advance of any longer-term trade solution. The uncertainty has already had a real impact, executives have told just-style.

Performance footwear and apparel brand Under Armour is continuing to add new executives to its team, including former VF Corp executive Colin Browne as president of global sourcing.

And US retail giant Macy's is to shutter 100 stores – almost 15% of its full-line stores – over the next 12 months as part of ongoing plans to try to put the business back on track and strengthen its omnichannel offer.

The news comes as new figures show US retail sales in July were flat with the month before as consumers continued to cut back on discretionary spending on items such as clothing.

For a more detailed overview of how US apparel and footwear brands and retailers are faring, our roundup of the second-quarter continues with the latest results from Nordstrom, Dillards, Macy's, Skechers and Under Armour.

And in other news, Chinese authorities say imports from the US must be certified mosquito free in an attempt to prevent spread of the Zika virus; Adidas is to open its first US Speedfactory in Atlanta; and 286 carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction substances (CMR) are to be restricted in European textile articles and clothing within the next year.

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