Denim Imports Relaxed in First Quarter

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Denim Imports Relaxed in First Quarter
Judith
Russel
After rising 3.4% in 2013 to $4.15 bil ion, denim imports slowed in the first quarter of 2014, according to data from the
Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).
Imports of blue denim apparel in January through March fel 2.4% to $744 bil ion compared to the same period in
2013. Total units fel by 1.7% to 7.7 mil ion dozen (92 mil ion units), resulting in an average cost per unit of $8.10,
down almost 1 percent from last year.
If the current trend continues, imported denim wil decline on both a dol ar and a unit volume basis this year, with unit
costs continuing to feel the pressure from the value-seeking American consumer.
Almost al (98 percent) of year-to-date imported denim apparel consisted of jeans. Denim jacket imports increased
4.4% in the first quarter of 2014, but remain a tiny part of the overal market.
Imports of men's and boys' jeans totaled $397 mil ion, flat with the same period in 2013. Men's share of total dol ar
volume was 52 percent, up from 50 percent in the first quarter of last year. The average unit cost of a pair of imported
men's jeans dropped 1.3% to $8.30.
Women's and girls' jeans imports were $334 mil ion, down 4.7% from the first quarter of 2013. The women's jeans
share of the total market fel to 46% of total imports, with the average cost per pair flat at $7.91.

Mexico was the largest source of U.S. denim imports in the first three months of 2014, at 28.7% of total dol ar volume.
China, despite being the largest source for the ful year in 2013, was the second largest in the first quarter of 2014,
with sales down 12.4% on a dol ar basis from 2013. Both countries have lost share of total U.S. denim imports, with
China's share down by 2.7 percentage points, and Mexico's off by 0.5 points.
Among the fastest growing trading partners in denim apparel was Bangladesh, whose jeans are the cheapest at
$6.03 per pair. Bangladesh supplies both the fast fashion and value basics business, and saw its share increase 1.1
percentage points to 10.2%. Vietnam, a country that grew its U.S. jeans business by 7.8% in the first three months of
the year, gained more than 0.5 percentage points of market share. Imports from Egypt and Lesotho also grew rapidly,
while those from Nicaragua and Indonesia declined.
Men's jeans imports from Mexico were $182 mil ion in the period, or 46 percent of men's jeans imports, though a
5 percent decline from last year. Men's imports from Bangladesh grew the fastest of any top trading partner in the
period, up 14 percent to $40 mil ion.
Forty percent of women's jeans imports, or $133 mil ion, came from China, with Bangladesh a distant second, at $33
mil ion.
The decline of import growth is consistent with a slowing of demand for jeans at retail. Total U.S. jeans sales were
$13.8 bil ion in the 12 months ended March 2014, according to the NPD Group. Sales of women's jeans fel 5.2%, to
$8.4 bil ion, while the total men's market shrank 4.1%, to $5.4 bil ion.
Shifts in fashion trends have some denim makers--particularly those in the premium category--singing the blues
these days, as many consumers opt for yoga pants and other "athleisure" looks for their casual dressing. Retail sales
of women's jeans priced at $75 or above fel by almost 33 percent for the 12 months ended March 2014, according to
NPD. Jeans have become a promotional item at many merchants, particularly the fast fashion brands like H&M,
Forever 21 and Uniqlo. This is putting tremendous price pressure on, and taking share from, middle market
mainstays like Calvin Klein, Lee, Levi's and teen retailers American Eagle and Aeropostale.



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