Is China’s Manufacturing Dominance Dipping? New Data Suggests So

Though U.S. footwear imports were fairly flat in 2017, China’s share of those shoes fell to a 20-year low.

In 2017, the U.S. imported 2.38 billion pairs of shoes worth $25.14 billion from around the world, a nominal 0.4 percent slide from 2016.

Just 25 million pairs of shoes were made in America in 2017, according to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. And at a time when the fate of so many trade relationships hangs in the balance — threatening duty benefits on products that already pay a high price, it’s worth noting that the industry spent $2.88 billion on footwear tariffs last year alone.

While China remains overwhelmingly the dominant supplier, still commanding a more than 71 percent share of U.S. footwear imports, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, FDRA said imports from China have reached a 20-year low, and shipments have seen declines in the last seven of 10 years.

FDRA Shoe Import Infographic
The top 10 countries shipping shoes into the U.S.
CREDIT: Sourcing Journal

Footwear imports from China totaled $14 billion in 2017, a 4.3 percent dip from its position in 2016.

Though Vietnam continues to increase its share of U.S. footwear imports, China still has a fourfold lead where volume is concerned. Last year, Vietnam sent $5.4 billion worth of shoes to the U.S., an 11 percent gain over its position the prior year. The country has reached a record 17 percent share of U.S. footwear imports. According to FDRA, that marks 17 straight years of “impressive” growth for Vietnam, despite average landed costs remaining high.

Indonesia remains the third-largest supplier of footwear for the U.S. market, shipping $1.48 billion worth last year, a 3.62 percent year-over-year gain. The country now holds a 4 percent share of the market and last year marked the 10th consecutive year of gains.

Italy has long been among the pricier footwear manufacturers, and though that remains true, the country’s average landed costs fell to a seven-year low last year. Footwear imports from Italy last year were worth $1.36 billion, slightly up from its position in 2016, and volume was up just 1.69 percent to 18.3 million pairs.

In value terms, Italy, India, Mexico, Cambodia, Spain, the Dominican Republic and Brazil rounded out the top 10 suppliers of footwear to the U.S.

In terms of volume, the map looks a little different — China, Vietnam and Indonesia still hold the top three spots, but then Cambodia reaches fourth in the ranks.

The country shipped 28 million pairs of shoes to the U.S. last year, 2 million more pairs than the year prior, and it now accounts for a 1.2 percent share of overall footwear imports. By value, footwear imports from Cambodia were $263 million, a 6.8 percent climb over 2016.

“Shipments to U.S. [from Cambodia were] up 775 percent over the last five years,” FDRA said, adding that the “country rivals China as a key low-cost supplier.”

Footwear shipments from Thailand also saw growth last year, up 21.2 percent to 8.4 million pairs, valued at $104 million.

For other footwear-making nations, costs drove up competition and ultimately lowered their shipments.

India’s footwear shipments to the U.S. fell from 28 million pairs to 25.8 million in a year’s time, an 8 percent slide. By value, footwear imports from India were $448 million, compared with $491 million a year before.

“Shipments sag after five straight years of double-digit gains to U.S., even as average landed cost falls to 7-year low,” FDRA noted.

Thanks to a stronger peso, footwear shipments from Mexico to the U.S. fell last year from a 13-year high as average landed cost rebounded. The country sent 18.7 million pairs of shoes to the U.S. last year (just a slight 1.8 percent slide over its prior year position), valued at $384.5 million.

Brazil shipped 12 million pairs of shoes to the U.S. last year, down 13.8 percent year over year and valued at $204 million. “2017 shipments to the U.S. sank to a four-year low as average landed cost climbs to a four-year high,” FDRA said.

Despite its average landed cost dipping to a nine-year low, footwear shipments from the Dominican Republic also slid. The country sent 10.4 million pairs of shoes to the U.S. last year, a 9.2 percent decline from the year prior.

Editor’s Note: This story was reported by FN sister magazine Sourcing Journal. For more, visit sourcingjournal.com.

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