U.S. denim imports edged down in the first seven months of 2017, according to data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).
Total imports of denim apparel in the period fell by 1.3% on a dollar basis, to $1.94 billion. Units rose by 1.3%, driving down average cost by 2.6% to $7.56.
Denim imports have been on a downward trend since they peaked at $4.15 billion in 2013, with much of the drop due to declining prices. Though the premium end of the market remains robust and interesting, it still represents a small part of the overall denim market. For the mid-tier and mass segments, U.S. brands and retailers have been shifting the bulk of their sourcing to lower-cost countries to meet consumer demands for cheaper product.
For the January through July 2017 period, China kept its position as the number one source of U.S. denim apparel despite losing 0.6 percentage points of import share compared to the same period in 2016, leaving it with 26 percent of the total. The average cost of denim from China increased by 4 percent.
The number two trading partner, Mexico, lost 1.2 percentage points of share, the most share of any major trading partner, ending July with 22.7% of the year-to-date total.
Bangladesh gained the most share of any trading partner, picking up a percentage point, to 13.8% of the total. Vietnam gained 0.9 percentage points of U.S denim market share. Egypt and Pakistan also gained, while Cambodia and Nicaragua lost. Most of Egypt’s growth was in women’s jeans.
Jeans represent almost all denim imports, at 98 percent of the year-to-date total.
Men’s and boys’ denim represented the largest segment, at 51 percent of the total on a dollar basis, down slightly from the prior year period. The women’s and girls’ segment increased its share of total slightly to 47 percent of the total. The average unit cost of a pair of jeans fell about 3 percent, with men’s and women’s declining by the same amount.
Denim jackets, skirts, dresses and other garments represent less than 2 percent of total denim imports. Through July, imports of denim jackets increased by 52 percent, but remain an extremely small portion of total denim imports.
Men’s and boys’ jean imports dropped by 3.8% in the period, while women’s rose by 0.8%. Men’s and boys’ jeans suffered a less than one drop in units. Women’s units increased by 4 percent.
China has exported a total of $504 million in denim to the U.S. so far this year, down 3.4% from the prior year period. Unit imports from China increased by almost 2 percent, resulting in an average cost per garment decrease of 5.2%, to $7.20. Men’s jeans from China fell more than women’s.
U.S. brands imported $440 million worth of denim apparel from Mexico in the seven months ending July 2017, 6.4% less than in the same period in 2016. Total units from Mexico fell by 6.4% as well, so the average cost per pair remained flat at $8.14. Men’s jeans comprised 88 percent of U.S. denim imports from Mexico, and were responsible for most of the decline from that country as well.
Imports from Bangladesh, the U.S.’s third-largest source of denim apparel, increased by 6.3% to $268 million, with most of the gains in women’s. Total units imported were up by 10 percent. The average cost of a pair of jeans from Bangladesh fell by 3.6% to $5.86, the lowest of any top 10 trading partner.
The biggest percentage increase was enjoyed by Vietnam, whose denim exports to the U.S. rose by 18 percent, to $108 billion, despite the demise of TPP. Average unit cost fell 4 percent to $7.93, 10 percent higher than that of China.
Egypt, the fourth largest source of U.S. denim imports, saw its shipments of denim to the U.S. increase by 15 percent, mostly due to a 14 percent surge in units.