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U.S. Apparel Imports Up

Level is highest for any January in 22 years.

WASHINGTON — Coming off of a record import level last year, textile and apparel imports to the U.S. rose 11.5 percent in January compared with a year earlier, to 4.4 billion square meter equivalents, marking the highest level for any January since 1989, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Thursday.

Apparel imports in January increased 17 percent to 2 billion SME compared with a year earlier, while textile shipments rose 7.5 percent to 2.5 billion SME.

The nation’s overall trade deficit, driven up by higher oil prices, increased 15.1 percent to $46.3 billion in January.

Gregory Daco, senior economist for IHS Global Insight, said, “Prices played a major role in January as rising commodity prices pushed value increases above volume gains.”

The large increase in the trade deficit was also driven by “strong consumer demand [which] pulled in more consumer goods and auto imports,” Daco said.

The industry has been grappling with soaring cotton prices over the past few months, in addition to rising polyester and wool prices. Apparel brands and retailers are beginning to push the higher raw cotton prices through to retail, anxiously watching to see if consumers will accept them. The government’s monthly retail sales report, released today, will offer one of the first snapshots of how stores are faring with higher prices.

Combined apparel and textile shipments from top-supplier China rose 11 percent to 2.1 billion SME in January — apparel imports advanced 10.4 percent to 805 million SME and textile imports increased 11.5 percent to 1.2 billion SME. Combined imports from India, the second-largest supplier to the U.S., grew 1.1 percent to 260 million SME, as a 2.1 percent decrease in textile shipments to 174 million SME was offset by an 8.5 percent increase in apparel shipments to 85 million SME.

Vietnam, the third-largest supplier to the U.S., saw combined shipments soar by 25 percent to 266 million SME, with apparel imports rising 21.8 percent to 185 million SME and textile imports increasing 32.4 percent to 80 million SME.

Other countries showing major growth in apparel imports were Bangladesh, with a 48.7 percent increase; Cambodia, 36.8 percent; Pakistan, 27.5 percent; and Indonesia, 21.8 percent.

According to OTEXA, the top apparel suppliers in January were China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Honduras and Indonesia. China was also the top textile supplier, followed by India, Pakistan, Mexico and Canada.