China Loses US Apparel Market Share in Q1 2014

China’s loss of US apparel import share has been Vietnam’s gain so far in 2014.

Total apparel imports for the first three months of 2014 increased by 3.3% to almost $19 billion compared to the same period last year, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). Total unit volume, measured on a square meter equivalent basis, increased by 3.4%, driving up the average cost per SME by 1.3%.

Vietnam has enjoyed the biggest share gain of US apparel imports so far this year, growing from 10.2% of total apparel imports in 2013 to 11.6% in 2014, a 1.3 percentage point share gain. China has suffered the biggest share loss, dropping from 33.8% to 32.5%, a 1.2 percentage point decline. Apparel imports from Vietnam totaled $2.2 billion, growing 16.6% year-on-year, while China’s apparel shipments to the US edged down by 0.5% to $6.2 billion.

The cost per SME of apparel imported from Vietnam increased by 3.7%, indicating that the Southeast Asian country is meeting its goal of shipping pricier goods to the US Key categories for Vietnam are: women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s manmade fiber knit tops and dresses, and cotton underwear.

Indonesia and Bangladesh continued to jockey for position as the third and fourth largest sources of apparel to the US, though both countries have lost share in the first three months of this year. Bangladesh’s exports to the US have declined on a year-to-date basis amid demands by US apparel customers requiring factories there to invest in and improve safety conditions. However, they remain ahead of last year through February on both a dollar and unit basis. Apparel imports from Indonesia have decreased so far this year in both dollars and units. Indonesia’s share fell from 7.5% to 7.0%.

US apparel imports from China totaled $1.5 billion in March, up 11.3% over March 2013. Units (on a square meter equivalent basis) rose 11 percent, driving the cost per unit slightly lower.

Key product categories from China in March include women’s cotton knit tops, women’s and men’s cotton pants, women’s man-made fiber knit tops and dresses, man-made fiber hosiery and  man-made fiber bras.

India has gained some US apparel import share so far this year. Key categories include men’s and women’s cotton and man-made fiber knit and woven tops.

Honduras has been turning things around a bit, and exported 2.4% more apparel on a dollar basis than the same period last year. Key categories from Honduras include men’s cotton and man-made fiber knit shirts.

So far this year, the share of US apparel imports enjoyed by CAFTA-DR countries has been flat, compared to increases by South Asia and the ASEAN region.

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