Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — Retailers are apparently anticipating a powerful holiday selling season, based on the record amount of apparel imported in August.
Thanks to huge orders for tops, bottoms, pajamas and underwear, imported apparel totaled 1.62 billion square meters equivalent in the month, a 19.5 percent increase from August 1999 levels.
During August, textile imports jumped 17.7 percent from year-ago levels to 1.54 billion SME, surpassing the one-year-old sourcing record. For the month, yarn imports rose 17.5 percent and fabric imports 13.7 percent from a year ago.
For the first eight months of this year, apparel imports rose 15.9 percent to 10.73 billion SME and were up 14.7 percent for the year ending August 31, to 15.57 billion SME. Textile imports soared 20.3 percent year-to-date, to 11.39 billion SME, and they were up 19.6 percent for the year ended August, to 16.43 billion SME.
Apparel and textile imports combined totaled 3.16 billion SME, an 18.6 percent increase over the previous record set a year ago. August also marked the 13th-consecutive month that these combined imports rose by double-digit percentages, according to Donald Foote, agreements division director with the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel. Foote noted that a handful of countries accounted for the lion’s share of the import increases in both sectors.
On the apparel side, Mexico, the U.S.’s top foreign supplier, saw its shipments jump nearly 16 percent in August to 241 million SME. Mexican shipments accounted for one-eighth of the entire increase in apparel sourcing during August. It’s shipments to the U.S. of men’s man-made fiber pants skyrocketed 96.9 percent in the month to 10.7 million SME. Mexico’s exports to the U.S. of women’s cotton pants jumped 28 percent for the month to 28.6 million SME.
Bangladesh, the U.S.’s fourth-largest foreign apparel supplier, saw its exports jump 20.5 percent in August to 101 million SME. Its exports to the U.S. of man-made fiber hats increased 39 percent for the month to 16.3 million SME and its shipments of cotton pajamas soared 53.5 percent to 7.1 million SME. Imports of Bangladeshi women’s cotton nonsuit jackets were up 57.7 percent in August to 4 million SME.
Hong Kong, the third-largest U.S. source for imported apparel, saw its shipments jump 17.4 percent in August to 102 million SME. Two clothing categories accounted for one-fifth of the country’s entire apparel export growth in the month. Shipments of cotton and man-made fiber infant’s wear soared 86 percent to 6.1 million SME and shipments of man-made fiber underwear jumped 70 percent to 6.1 million SME.
U.S. apparel imports from Indonesia soared 40 percent in August to 56 million SME, tying it for 10th place with the Philippines, whose shipments rose 13.8 percent in the month. Indonesia’s exports to the U.S. of cotton pajamas skyrocketed 104 percent to 4 million SME during August and its shipments of women’s man-made fiber sweaters jumped 90 percent to 4.1 million SME for the month.
Meanwhile, U.S. apparel imports from the Caribbean Basin Initiative nations rose just 6.2 percent in August to 331 million SME, continuing its modest growth rate of recent years, after solid, double-digit increases throughout the Eighties and the mid-Nineties.
Although the apparel shipments of this regional bloc remains one-third larger than Mexico’s, CBI-based apparel assembly operations have been relatively static since Mexico was granted free-trade perks under NAFTA in 1994.
Boosted by huge investments by American apparel firms and textile mills, Mexican maquiladora’s increased annual apparel shipments here severalfold since 1994. This growth may slow, however, due to a new law that took effect Oct. 1 granting roughly the same free-trade perks to CBI makers.
Analysts have said the effects of this parity likely will be felt by early summer next year, by which time they forecast CBI apparel shipments will increase by double-digit percentages each month. As the CBI provision contains a requirement that apparel made there be made from U.S. yarn and fabrics, American textile exports to the CBI nations likely should increase substantially, as well.
On the textile side, vastly higher shipments to the U.S. by two nations accounted for more than 40 percent of the increase in the entire textile import sector. Mexico’s August exports of man-made fiber filament yarn jumped 56 percent to 26.4 million SME and its shipments of man-made fiber textile bags increased 30 percent in the month to 47.1 million SME. Textile shipments by top-ranked Canada rose 10.7 percent for the month to 252 million SME.
In addition, Mexico’s exports of man-made fiber blankets, sheets and comforters rose 45 percent during August to 43.5 million SME. Mexico is the U.S.’s second-ranked foreign textile supplier. Its U.S. exports rose 30.7 percent in August to 212 million SME.
Ninth-ranked foreign textile shipper Indonesia saw its exports jump 34.4 percent to 54 million SME during August. Shipments of Indonesian man-made fiber textile bags jumped by 48 percent in August to 13.8 million SME.

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