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Athleisure, Pakistan the winners as apparel trade loses ground

Bangladesh 24 China 2716 Cons. Discr. - Apparel 400 Cons. Discr. - Retailing 351 India 429 Pakistan 19 Sri Lanka 13 U.S. 4832

The recent recovery in U.S. retail sales has left the apparel industry behind, as discussed in Panjiva’s research of February 17. This report considers some of the underlying trends including the performance of different categories as well as supply chain considerations.

At the top level U.S. imports of apparel, footwear and textiles recovered by 9.2% year over year in Q4’20 before taking a step backwards in January with a decline of 1.6%, Panjiva’s data shows. The dip has been largely driven by a 21.1% drop in footwear, which has been in steady decline throughout the pandemic as the need to go outdoors has been greatly reduced. On the other hand imports of textiles, including homeware and crafts, has climbed 25.1% higher in Q4 and by a further 19.7% in January.

Footwear takes a step backwards in January

Chart shows U.S. seaborne imports of apparel, footwear and textiles. Source: Panjiva

Within clothing the stay-at-home trend also applies with athleisure imports having increased by 17.0% year over year in January after dropping by 27.0% in Q4’20. The expansion in the athleisure segment has included a mixture of budget and fashion retailers. Imports linked to H&M increased by 18.8% in January, while those linked to ABF’s Primark and Uniqlo-owner Fast Retailing increased by 66.5% and 482.1% respectively.

Imports of denim are still in decline, though at a slower rate in January with a dip of 7.8% after a drop of 9.7% in Q4’20, including an 11.3% slide in shipments linked to Levi Strauss which has included a reduction in inventories. Formalwear’s decline has accelerated to a 17.7% drop in January as a return to office work remains out of sight in many instances.

Casual and comfortable still expanding

Chart compares U.S. seaborne imports of apparel by style. Source: Panjiva

With many school’s still operating virtually it’s notable that imports of kids clothes have underperformed those of adult’s clothes. Imports of children’s apparel fell by 5.3% year over year in the three months to Jan. 31 while all other clothing imports increased by 3.0%. Both have fallen in January.

Kids clothing imports still fall faster than adults

Chart segments U.S. seaborne imports of apparel by age group. Source: Panjiva

China has continued to dominate the supplies of U.S. clothing, though imports have started to slow with a 0.4% dip in January following a 15.9% increase in Q4’20. That may reflect, in part, congestion in the logistics sector caused by surging demand for all forms of consumer goods. Imports from Vietnam have begun to decline with a drop of 13.8% in January while imports from South Asia have improved by 11.8%. 

The latter has been the result of a surge in shipments from Pakistan, including those by Walmart, of 32.9% year over year in January while imports of India, including Welspun’s, rose by 21.0%. Shipments from Bangladesh, including H&M’s, have lagged, possibly reflecting earlier order cancellations. Finally, imports from Sri Lanka, including those by PVH, declined by 26.9%, extending a slowdown seen throughout 2020.

Sri Lanka left behind in South Asian apparel recovery

Chart segments U.S. seaborne imports of apparel by origin. Source: Panjiva

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