By  on December 11, 2008

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

Apparel and textile imports dropped 2.1 percent in October to 4.782 billion square meter equivalents compared with the same period last year, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel.

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 by 4.5 percent from the previous year, a more significant decline then the same year-to-date period in 2007 when import levels were down 3.9 percent. Shipments in October were the highest for one month yet this year, despite falling in year-to-year comparisons.

The volume of apparel imports once again bucked the overall downward trend and increased 2.4 percent to 2.273 billion SME, but the general numbers were dragged down by a 5.8 percent decline in textile shipments to 2.509 billion SME.

Shipments of textiles and apparel from China dropped 0.5 percent from last year to 2.065 billion SME as falling textile import levels counteracted a rise in apparel imports. Canada continued a longstanding downward cycle in the volume of apparel and textiles it imports into the U.S., decreasing shipments 27.4 percent to 113 million SME.

Shipments from Mexico dropped 13 percent to 228 million SME.

Bangladesh showed the largest increase in import volume, surpassing Vietnam and 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 importer was China, followed by Pakistan, India, Mexico and South Korea.

The overall trade balance increased to $57.2 billion in October from $56.6 billion last month.

For complete coverage, see Friday’s WWD.

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