China Still Cheapest for Apparel, But Imports Drop for Third Straight Year
A full year of apparel import data from 2020 showed that apparel imports were down 16.4 percent overall, with a significant 23.6 percent drop in shipments from China, marking the third-straight year of import decreases from the country, according to Business of Fashion.
At the same time, China’s per-unit cost of apparel to the U.S. fell 20 percent last year, hitting a 10-year low.
According to Just-Style, China’s per-unit garments shipped to the U.S. cost $1.79 in 2020. That cost was $2.24 in 2019.
Both of these are a result of the ongoing trade war between the two countries that began in 2019. Tariffs still remain in place for 92 percent of clothing shipped from China to the U.S., causing U.S. apparel companies to seek out suppliers elsewhere, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The economic impact from the trade war was further exaggerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shutdowns at Chinese apparel manufacturing facilities impacted supply in early 2020, and consumer demand for apparel has been volatile.
The U.S. also saw fewer apparel shipments from Vietnam, which is the second-largest source of apparel to the U.S., but an increase in year-over-year import volume from Bangladesh.
Overall, this indicates that the U.S. is continuing to rely less on China for apparel. With the pandemic still taking its toll the global supply chain—with lasting impacts that might take time to become apparent—we may see an acceleration of this shift in coming years.