Containers of footwear imports through U.S. ports jumped 14 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2013, the largest increase since fourth quarter 2010. Quarterly declines extending from the third quarter of 2011 preceded this upturn.
U.S. containerized imports of footwear totaled 119,079 TEUs in the first quarter of 2013, up from 104,383 TEUs in the same quarter of 2012, and an increase of 19 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012, according to data from PIERS, a JOC sister company.
Mainland China, not including Hong Kong, lost share in this market in the first quarter of 2013 despite a 12 percent year-over-year increase in footwear shipments to the U.S. In first quarter 2013, it had a 69.9 percent share of the market, down 1.5 percentage points year-over-year. China, however, remains the top source country for U.S. footwear imports, by far. Other top countries of origin for U.S. footwear imports this quarter were Vietnam, with 10.7 percent, up 2 percentage points; Hong Kong, 9.0 percent, down 1.1 percentage points; and Indonesia, 5.4 percent, up 1.3 percentage points.
“China is doomed to see its strength in labor-intensive manufacturing wane at a slow but steady pace in the years to come,” JOC economist Mario Moreno said. “China’s new economic plan focuses on the rebalance of the economy where the emphasis is in boosting consumer spending as a percent of GDP. This means wages will be allowed to continue rising, adversely impacting the profitability of labor-intensive industries such as footwear.”
Rising production costs in China have prompted some factory owners to relocate facilities to low-cost producers Vietnam and Indonesia. In the November 2012 JOC Insights report, Moreno said, “The relocation process will be slow for all those footwear and other labor-intensive goods factories in the export trade because China has superior infrastructure than Vietnam and other Southeast Asian economies. Vietnam is making some progress in that area, but it is slow.”
Footwear import volume from Indonesia jumped 50 percent jump in the first quarter of 2013. Volume totaled 6,373 TEUs in the first quarter, compared with 4,259 TEUs in the same period last year. Vietnam's footwear exports to the U.S. jumped 39 percent to 12,799 TEUs, from 9,183 TEUs in the first quarter of 2012, pushing the country ahead of Hong Kong as the second-largest source country for footwear imports to the U.S. Containerized footwear imports from Taiwan jumped 60 percent in the first quarter, to 770 TEUs, from 480 TEUs last year, moving it to the sixth place spot as a sourcing country, displacing the Dominican Republic. India remained the fifth top source country this quarter, showing 27 percent growth year-over-year to 865 TEUs.