18 February 2014
US apparel imports from China more strongly increased in the fourth quarter last year than from the rest of the world, with however a large number of differences depending on categories of products. This is reflected by our quarterly review comparing US apparel imports from China and from Rest of World (RoW) for each category of products, in volume, value and unit value terms. Historical data with percentage change and market shares are available for download since 2011.
US apparel imports more strongly rose from China in the fourth quarter last year than from other origins, taken as a whole.
Total Chinese shipments were up more than 4% in volume terms whereas imports only increased 2.9% from Rest of the World (RoW).
In cotton apparel categories however, China continued losing market shares with its shipments to the United States falling 2.6% in volume terms.
In man-made fiber categories by contrast, China's share clearly rose, as US imports of Chinese MMF apparel were surging 9.45%, compared with a rise of only 4.2% from RoW.
As usual, analyzing unit prices offers the best clues for understanding this new market trend in the United States.
Chinese prices most declined in man-made fiber categories like 638 (knit shirts for men and boys) where average unit value of Chinese shipments fell 9.9% whereas unit prices only dropped 3.6% from other origins.
In 648 (MMF trousers for women and girls), Chinese unit value declined 5.4% when the same unit price was rising 5.5% from RoW.
In a large number of key categories, however, China's share of the US import market further declined over the last quarter of 2013.
In 339/340 (cotton woven shirts) for example, or in 347/348 (cotton trousers), China was unable limiting its decline, due to the excessively high price of its raw materials and a new increase of labor costs.
Productivity gains were more difficult to achieve in woven apparel categories than in knit apparel categories where further automatization is often made possible by investing in modern machinery.
More detailed data are now available for key cotton and man-made fiber categories in our apparel import database, with import volumes, values and unit values per origin:
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