Change in the Air: The New Era of Apparel Imports

Through our interdependent, globalized world, the U.S has long enjoyed access to goods from regions near and far. And, the apparel industry is prime example of that. Over the last 100 years, the U.S has changed its title from major apparel manufacturer to one of the largest importers of apparel and textiles. Now, with changes to costs of labor, raw materials, and new innovations in production, there are some nations showing promising new options for imports.

The Last Great Empire?

For decades, China has enjoyed being the majority source of the U.S apparel and textile imports. While the U.S has about 10 suppliers including China, Vietnam, and India, brands have been looking elsewhere for new viable markets. Although, credit must still be given to Asia as it still has a hefty market share of 55% irrespective of the removal of the U.S from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to Sourcing Journal Online.

India is also formidable in this business with its 2.7% increase in December 2017.  In addition, Vietnam grew into a strong competitor as an alternative to Chinese apparel imports. Vietnam’s import increased strongly with a 9.5% gain and 4.83 billion SME per Quartz Media. Bangladesh is growing to become a reliable source because it offers one of the world’s lowest wages for garment workers. But, many US companies are still skeptical. Infamously poor working conditions left only 42% of U.S companies to consider increasing their business with Bangladesh.

So, You Want to Be on Top?

As of late, Mexico, has been generating excitement and promise for its quality production and close proximity to the U.S. SJ online reported that they are the 5th largest supplier to the U.S. They continued that there was a, “4.5% gain in the month and 3.8% increase for the year to 2.51 billion SME.” But, hesitation still looms at threats to break ties with NAFTA has kept some degree of potential growth at bay.

And now, it looks like Toto isn’t the only one singing about Africa. In fact, the newest rising star for imports is Africa; most notably in Ethiopia and Kenya. In the same report, Gail Strickler, president of Global Trade for Brookfield Associates spoke on this shift. She stated,

 “The fact that the government has liberalized things has made it a shining star. Electricity in Ethiopia comes mostly from renewable resources like hydroelectric power, and the costs are quite low.”

In addition, investment from both African government and outside sources are spurring the growth of factories and other facilities.

Changes within the global economy as well as the apparel industry have been rapid and robust. Infrastructure, opportunity and costs are a few factors that have been prompting U.S companies to find other solutions. As the largest consumer of apparel and textiles, they hold unique power to spur the economic development and apparel industries of those around the world.


Author: Christine Duff

Storytelling is my passion in life, whether through words across a page, a styled outfit that speaks volumes, or directing a photoshoot that expresses it visually. I live my life driven by my love of people, art, and the pursuit of happiness.