US apparel imports declined seven per cent in October, setting the stage for the first full-year drop in apparel imports since 2009. The drop in apparel imports has not been offset by an increase in shipments of domestically produced apparel. The average cost per square meter of apparel imports has fallen by 3.9 per cent so far this year compared to 2015, a result of the relentless cost reduction that brands have had to resort to in order to expand profit margins in this highly promotional market environment.
China, Vietnam and Bangladesh are the top three sources of imported US apparel, collectively representing 55 per cent of year-to-date apparel imports. China has seen its share of the US market slip in recent years as countries with lower labor costs like Vietnam and those in closer proximity like El Salvador have gained share.
US apparel exports plunged by 15 per cent in October. Total apparel exports on a free alongside basis have fallen every month so far this year on a dollar basis compared to the same period in 2015. Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom remain the top trading partners, representing more than half of all US apparel exports. Exports to the United Arab Emirates and Netherlands have grown the fastest in 2016.