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April US apparel imports up a bit

US apparel imports posted a 1.77 per cent gain in April over March, but were down 4.94 per cent compared with the same month a year ago. Consumer spending on non-durables such as clothing rose 1.4 per cent in April, the biggest increase in more than six years. But April’s positive result may not be the start of a rebound. Weak demand and muted growth remain the forecast for the sector.

Leading apparel retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s have reported disappointing first quarter results, following a slump in sales that began in second half 2015. Consumers are bypassing these mall anchors to shop at fast-fashion chains and online. Amazon overtook Wal-Mart as America’s largest retailer last year. It is poised to overtake Macy’s as the largest clothing retailer next year.

The shift in apparel production from China to lower-cost markets continues apace. China’s share of US apparel imports has eroded from 38 per cent in 2011 to 31 per cent this year through April. The biggest winner, Vietnam, now accounts for 13 per cent. For US apparel imports from January to April 2016, the biggest share was held by China, followed by Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and Mexico.