WASHINGTON — Apparel and textile imports to the U.S. continued to increase in September, but the frenzied effort to restock inventories that drove substantial increases in July and August cooled somewhat.
Combined shipments of apparel and textiles to the U.S. rose 16.7 percent compared with a year earlier to 5.2 billion square meter equivalents in September, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Wednesday. September was the fourth highest month of textile and apparel imports in 2010. Apparel shipments were up 13.3 percent to 2.5 billion SME and textile shipments advanced 20.1 percent to 2.6 billion SME. The overall trade deficit narrowed to $44 billion in September from $46.5 billion in August.
Companies are looking to scale back their orders after rebuilding stocks in recent months, said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight.
“The sharp fall in the trade deficit in September shows some easing in the surge in imports caused by restocking,” Gault said. “Underlying final sales growth remains sluggish and firms want to avoid an excessive inventory buildup.”
Combined imports from China rose 22.1 percent to 2.7 billion SME, with apparel up 12.5 percent to 1.2 billion SME and textile increasing 31.8 percent to 1.4 billion SME. Shipments of textiles and apparel from Vietnam rose 27.1 percent to 252 million SME, with apparel gaining 22.8 percent to 177 million SME and textiles up 38.5 percent to 75 million SME. Mexico increased its industry imports 21.4 percent to 235 million SME, as apparel rose 7.6 percent to 79 million SME and textiles climbed 29.9 percent to 155 million SME.
A number of countries had import increases driven by apparel shipments. Honduras saw combined imports rise 35.8 percent to 118 million SME and Haiti’s shipments increased 28.4 percent to 29 million SME. Apparel imports from Cambodia increased 14.7 percent to 99 million SME and shipments from El Salvador advanced 37.5 percent to 79 million SME.
Shipments of textiles and apparel rose from all of the top 10 U.S. suppliers, except South Korea, which saw imports decline 20.4 percent to 101 million SME. The top five apparel suppliers in September were China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Honduras. China was also the largest textile supplier, followed by India, Pakistan, Mexico and South Korea.
On Wall Street Wednesday, stocks bounced back from morning declines, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average ahead 10.29 points, or 0.1 percent, at 11,357.04. However, retail stocks, encouraged by strong results at Macy’s Inc. and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., fared far better. The S&P Retail Index moved up 4.04 points, or 0.8 percent, to 485.43, breaking a two-day skid that had followed four days of advances. Polo’s 7.3 percent advance, to $108.28, was the third largest percentage gain among the 172 issues tracked by WWD, behind only BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc., up 12.6 percent to $47.34 following reports that it had hired Morgan Stanley to help it orchestrate a leveraged buyout, and Birks & Mayors Inc., up 7.6 percent to $1.32. BJ’s had in recent months received an offer from Leonard Green & Partners LP, the private equity firm.
Also on Wednesday, Charles Conaway, former chief executive officer of Kmart Corp., agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit. He had been ordered to pay $10.2 million in February when he was found liable for misleading investors before Kmart filed for bankruptcy court protection. The agreement is subject to approval by a federal court in Detroit.