Apparel and Textiles Imports Fall 2.1 Percent in October

Shipments to the U.S. have declined for the eight consecutive month.

WASHINGTON — Economic challenges continued to be a drag on shipments of apparel and textiles to the U.S., fueling a trend that has dogged the industry all year.

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Apparel and textile imports dropped 2.1 percent in October to 4.78 billion square meter equivalents compared with the same period last year, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Thursday. Apparel and textile import levels have been trending down all year; October was the eighth consecutive month in which shipments to the U.S. fell in year-over-year comparison. Year-to-date apparel and textile shipments to the U.S. are off 4.5 percent, compared with a 3.9 percent decline for the same year-to-date period in 2007.

“It doesn’t look good for the import situation or anything that deals with textiles and apparel,” said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research Corp. “This is an ongoing trend that shows no sign of abatement.”

The volume of apparel imports increased 2.4 percent to 2.27 billion SME in the month, but textile shipments fell 5.8 percent to 2.5 billion SME.

Imports of textiles and apparel from China dropped 0.5 percent from October 2007 to 2.06 billion SME as falling textile import levels counteracted a rise in apparel. Canada continued a long-standing downward cycle in the volume of apparel and textiles it ships to the U.S., decreasing 27.4 percent to 113 million SME. Imports from Mexico dropped 13 percent to 228 million SME.

Bangladesh showed the largest increase in import volume, growing 21.5 percent to 160 million SME. Shipments from Vietnam increased 21.4 percent to 176 million SME. India increased textile and apparel imports 13.4 percent to 263 million SME.

The top five apparel suppliers to the U.S. in October were China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Honduras and Indonesia. The top textile supplier was China, followed by Pakistan, India, Mexico and South Korea.

The overall trade deficit widened to $57.2 billion in October from $56.6 billion last month. China was responsible for $28.9 billion of the trade deficit, said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland. Chinese imports combined with petroleum and automotive imports “account for nearly the entire U.S. trade deficit,” Morici said.

“The trade numbers show why it is critical to include the strongest possible provisions in any economic stimulus package to buy American-made goods and services,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. “If that doesn’t happen, the money will just stimulate other economies at the expense of ours.”